“A Tale Of A Street”
Written By Nellie Parkinson (Nee Walsh) In 1985
A Retired Employee
When I finished work a senior member of our staff said to me “I bet you could write a book” my reply was, “you never know, I may do that one of these days.” As anyone can tell you who has served the public, behind every customer there’s a story waiting to unfold. This is my humble effort.
One evening as I was reading the local paper a heading caught my eye, “DEVELOPERS ARE MOVING INTO DARWEN TO MODERNISE THE OLD CO-OP BUILDINGS IN SCHOOL STREET AND MAKE A THROUGHFARE OF NEW SHOP UNITS.” I suppose some people reading this, myself amongst them, let their minds wander back to when the street was a row of very busy shops, certainly no graffiti on the frontage in those days. A certain amount of nostalgia prompted me to put pen to paper.
My earliest recollections of School-street as a child was as a child, when mother would say “meet me after work, we’ll go down’t street, put your shoes on not your clogs and look tidy.” If it was my turn for a new coat for the Chapels “Sermon Sunday,” to the Co-op we went, mother having saved 3d stamps bought along with the weekly groceries. She also joined the drapery club where she saved up until it was absolutely needed. Miss Annie Marsden worked up there in the mantle department, as it was called, very gracious lady. Such prestige and quality was the hallmark of the street. Two butchers shops, one English meat the other foreign, (a bit cheaper.) Steak and chops cut off as required, different today, everything ready cut on plates. A grocers shop, later it moved into Market-street, making way for a confectioners shop and café. Next the ladies wear, suits and dresses, made to measure upstairs. Downstairs curtains, bedding, materials etc. Gilbert Holden worked there many years. One large counter selling underwear.
I can visualise now, Hilda Duckworth and Minnie Jepson looking so smart in black dresses, fully fashioned silk stockings, patent leather high heel shoes, (that was their working uniform.) Then we go to the gents outfitters and tailoring department, bespoke sewing done by experts, incidentally my sister started work there as a trainee tailoress, in 1939 for 5s a week and stayed there 45 years, having just a short time off when her daughter was born, then her boss, Mr. Thompson, used to send work to her home, buttonholes being her speciality. Then came the shoe shop and furnishing department, all windows dressed to catch the eye, no merchandise on the pavement in those days. Three weeks before Christmas, Tinsel, glitter and coloured lights transformed the street. One window lent for a seasonal display of toys, was a treat for a child’s eyes.
Further along were the offices and bank where we were taught our first lesson of thrift. The dark green bankbook where we invested the brass “divi” checks our mother gave my sister and I: eight every quarter. Not to be drawn out, only for a rainy day. Not forgetting the small savings bank, open every Saturday twelve till twelve till two, contributions 6d upwards. What a thrill come Darwen Fair, to draw out this money plus interest. Some Co-op members got a mortgage for their first little home and were able to buy these houses by leaving their “divi to accumulate. If a family death occurred a grant was given to help expenses, according to how much one had spent with the Co-op over the years.
What a labyrinth of rooms this old building held, two big halls, library, kitchens, boardrooms, where directors held their meetings, etc. Some times in winter mother took us to a concert for a treat on Saturday night, admission 4d, or to Baines Albert Restaurant for a 3d plate of potato pie served from a large container in the window, I can almost smell it now, lovely. I little thought then that I would spend half my life in this great building. How did I come to be there? Well, I digress a little here, Friday 1st September 1939, a balmy September evening, as seventeen year old, I was going to meet friends, just for a walk about the town centre, but there was an uncanny feeling in the air. Outside our public library I was amazed to see hordes of children carrying gas masks and nametags on their coat lapels. These were the first contingent of evacuees from Manchester.
The winds of war had been blowing afar for sometime, but one felt them very near, as we were to find out two days later when war was declared. January 1940 found me one day staring up at a highly polished brass plaque in School-street, which read, Darwen Industrial Co-operative Society, Registered Office. After gaining enough courage, I walked up the stone steps for an interview with a board of directors; previously I had been working in a spinning mill in Bolton since I was fourteen. There were no jobs available in Darwen unless you had a father, or an uncle employed at Belgrave, Darwen Paper Mill or Walpamur. To get on, one hadn’t much chance; our mother was a young widow so couldn’t pull any strings. So wanting to get work nearer home I answered an advertisement on the Co-op window, which read: “Staff required, temporary for the duration of the war, as a grocery assistant.” Passing the interview the job was mine, serving behind the counter in Sudell-road Co-op. A first female standing where once it was male dominated territory.
Come 1946, the war having been over a few months, Mr Atherton, the general manager asked me to take over the confectioners shop at School-street, as now the boys were coming home and would want their jobs back. So, here I was in School-street where I stayed for twenty-seven years, till our shop closed and I moved to the supermarket. Well here we are in peacetime England, a land which was going to be fit for heroes to live in. Austerity was still with us, food rationed, clothes on coupon allowance, furniture on dockets, sweets and cigarettes in short supply. Queues of shoppers still a familiar sight. Through our small shop windows, we began to see a gradual change. Lamps began to shine, or blackout blinds disappear. Boys we knew as teenagers were coming back as men from war service; sadly some familiar faces of friends and workmates were missing. Taking a walk round the old hometown, lads would pop their heads round the shop door to say hello and go through to the café to chat up the waitresses. Yes a town centre shop window could reveal many stories, as time was to tell. Gradually merchandise began to come more plentiful. Our own bake house up Borough-road began turning out a large amount of cakes and various kinds of bread, all very good I might add. Business became so brisk our shop was made bigger and refurbished along with other shops in the row. Customers began to order celebration cakes, a post war glut of christenings, weddings, engagements, birthdays, anniversaries. Some brought lucky charms and tiny silver 3d bits, saved to be put in their cakes. These were wrapped in greaseproof paper and our baker made sure they went in the right cake!
Due to many post war weddings, our upstairs rooms were booked up every Saturday. One Wedding comes to mind. An elderly couple were married at Duckworth-street church at 8 o’clock Saturday morning; it was a lovely wedding in more ways than one. Just six of them sat down to cereal, ham, eggs, tomato, fried bread, marmalade and toast at table set out suitably for the occasion and screened off from the rest of the café, very nice, and so was the aroma coming through my shop, as I was preparing for another busy day. Co-op policy, nothing to much trouble to please, but rather original don’t you think?
My husband and I had our wedding reception there in the halls, July 1st 1950. I lent our wedding cake ornament to many a young couple who wanted the cheapest cake we made. So I asked the baker to plain ice a cake for £1 and our ornament and ribbon round it nicely graced a table. Sometimes these rooms took on more sombre atmosphere with funeral parties; one felt you were sharing the joys and sorrows of customers who had become friends in the course of your work. There was no license for alcohol in those days, if anyone wanted to drink a toast at a wedding they brought there own, only enough for the toast, approximately fifteen toasts to a bottle. Then a few years later a license was granted.
Yes the fifties and sixties were busy years, the Co-op halls were booked up nearly every winter for social events, dinner parties, dances, the venue for Masonic Dinners, St. Patrick’s Ball, the Farmers Ball, India Mill, Walpamur and Belgrave. We used to don our black dresses and white lacy aprons after working in the shop all day to “wait on “ upstairs. I may add Masonic Ladies night always added a touch of elegance to these Victorian rooms. I was reminded a few weeks ago of the first evening event I worked on in the Co-op Hall. Evelyn Rothwell, John Barbaroli’s wife was being interviewed on the radio. As I was listening I was thinking of the night just after the war, when she came to give an oboe recital. There was I on my own, serving cups of tea and biscuits to classical music lovers—although it wasn’t my cup of tea—in the interval. But most music is a great love of mine; music for dances was played by live bands, the musicians always looking smart in evening dress suits and bow ties. Regular visitors were Eddie McGarry’s Band, Jock Caton’s Band and John Reeds Accordion Band.
The Beatles came from Liverpool before they became famous. Many a romance began here. When the lights dimmed for the last waltz, usually the song “Who’s Taking you Home Tonight” was played. Afterwards happy couples could be seen wending their way home with dancing slippers tucked under their arms.
An enjoyable evening for the ladies was when models from the Lucy Clayton agency in Manchester came to give a mannequin parade wearing cloths on sale in School-street. One of these ladies was extra outsize but very good looking, showing us one needn’t look drab even though we have ample figures. Mayor making was held in May, after the ceremony in the old Town Hall over the Market Mall, the councillors and guests made their way through the “Old Glass Shed” across School-street to the banquet in the Co-op Hall. The ladies always looked smart in their outfits, with hats to match, adding a touch of colour to many a spring day. Our Parks Department always made the stone staircase leading up to the venue look beautiful with banks of flower arrangements round the dining hall and on tables complemented proceedings.
“Divi” day, four times a year always brought the crowds out. Some treated themselves to something new or a waitress served lunch with the money they had withdrawn. Many a lady used to love standing in our shops waiting to be served, chatting and listening to the quips of the friendly van drivers. Yes indeed, there certainly was a cross section of the public among our customers. Some it was a privilege to meet, they weren’t just customers, they became our friends. From bank managers I recall Mr. Spouse, manager of Lloyds Bank, always so pleasant, also Joe Westwell, manager of National Westminster. Being a widower he came in the café every day for launch, I can see him now, his bowler hat raised in greeting and carrying the Financial Times under his arm. He always had a catnap after his launch and would give a wry smile if you “pulled his leg.” Then there were others, “gentlemen of the road.” These vagrants used to get of the train at Darwen, come down School-street, pop in our shop and ask for the nearest doss house, so we pointed them to the Model Lodging House in Police-street, they used to say it was the best they had been in. Some of these men were very well spoken but had opted out of society for reasons only known to themselves. Some of these men we were reluctant to serve, being dirty and unkempt but we had to think, “There but for the grace of God go I.”
Another familiar figure in School-street was an elderly gentleman named Chris Griffiths; his real name was Christmas because he was born on that day. Every morning at dead on 10 o’clock he passed our shop on his way to the library, seeing him I knew it was brew time. The names of some customers we didn’t know so they had nicknames, I must say I hope they never found out. One of the waitresses made us laugh the way she described people. Two elderly ladies came in every Friday morning after shopping; these were “Apple Charlottes” because that’s what she always had every week with their cup of tea. There was Mrs. Mushroom, so called because she always wore a brown beret with a yellow stalk on top, and how about this, a young man was “him that carries Mary.” Our waitress had been watching St Edwards’s procession one Sunday and had seen him at the front carrying the statue of “Our Lady.” Then there was the day a crowd of Hungarians and Polish refugees came to Darwen to work in the cotton mills, settling down to marry in our local community. Many I see today who stop and have a chat. Families bombed out of our major cities lost everything in the air raids and came to live in small towns such as ours.
We didn’t have any form of heating in our shop, if the windows were frozen on a bad winters day we put lighted candles near to melt the ice so people could see what we were selling. But one very bad winters day; it was Friday so the shop was full of bread and cakes, the sprinkler in the ceiling over the window display burst, it was like Niagara Falls. Crowds gathered outside to see the spectacle of ruined food. But there was one funny moment when a knock came on the door, it was an elderly man, Mr. Bickerstaffe, saying: “Would you mind giving me my Turog loaf, it’s ordered, I won’t bother you.” We did get two heaters after that.
A big change for everyone was when decimal currency was introduced, but as time went on we got used to it and found it was easy reckoning. It took a long time for some to “cotton on,” a familiar cry was, “how much is that in proper money.” It certainly doubled every thing in price.
Then one year there was a bread strike, oh dear, that was horrendous, we only got a small quota every day for a few weeks and suddenly everyone in Darwen descended on us saying they had been regular customers, they had probably brought a loaf now and then, one lady missing out said I ought to be sacked, but how can you put a quart in a pint pot?
The good always rose to the occasion for town galas with decorated floats. I recall one set out advertising our catering department as a wedding reception, with bride and groom, complete with wedding cake and set out table, I can’t remember how they managed to keep things from toppling over. When Father Christmas came to town it really was a show. The lorry all decorated up, setting off from George-street with the town band behind and hundreds of children following, gazing up in awe at Santa sat there in all his seasonal splendour. There would be Harold Hyde heading the procession with his two young daughters, just like the pied piper of Hamlin. The trade we did just before Christmas was tremendous, apart from over the counter sale of festive goodies we catered for mill parties. In those days there wasn’t much in the way of hotel catering and dining out for evening meals, so factory looms used to stop for an hour for workers to celebrate. Their menu was turkey teacake, mince pie, trifle, cream cake and a 1lb box of chocolates to take home.
When Norman Wisdom came to Darwen to make the film “There was a crooked man,” we were responsible for catering for the film crew, taking food to up to rooms under the library every day. That was interesting and of course our takings were up, so we would go on; for, as one gets older, our memory seems to get keener. Many stories of customers left untold.
Lets not forget other shops in the old street: the regent shoe repair shop, keeping four men very busy. My Sykes general store, this Jewish gentleman used to travel up from Manchester every day. He had his dinner taken across from the café every day by a waitress who in return got a pair of nylons as a “tip,” the electric showrooms next on the corner. The opposite corner on our side was Gregory’s sweets and tobacconists, better known as “Mollies,” the name of the pleasant lady who worked for Gregory’s for years running one of their shop. Then came Mrs. Hibbins little flower shop. There’s just one part of old School-street left now; the rooms under our public library, still serving the community, used by the arts and council and let out to various organisations.
Come the late fifties a new war was waging; a price war. Large supermarkets were springing up, bringing about a demise of smaller shops, cotton mills closing down, and firms being taken over. Families becoming the owners of cars, televisions, fridges, freezers. All this changing a pattern of living we had known for so long, not least shopping habits. The days of lost identity were fast approaching, from our own borough level to Mrs. Average Housewife. No longer was she on friendly terms with her grocer, just next in line at the check out. Competition was fast becoming fierce in trading circles, changes having to be made to ensure survival, we hope in the right direction for profitability.
Well the bulldozers have been at work knocking down the old to make way for the new. When ex Darwen citizens come back to their roots, visiting relatives, probably showing their children scenes of their heritage, the Tower, Sunnyhurst Woods, Whitehall Park and our moor lands, can’t one imagine them saying: “What has happened to the Co-op in School-street.” Could it be said by some of our older residents of our town? A large part of it is locked away in the hearts of so many of us, along with memories of yesteryear.
Yes the co-op was a great institution, serving the public so well. May be like the phoenix it will rise from the ashes. I wish it well.
John Parkinson contacted Cotton Town after reading about Glenside Pipe Band, in the Down Memory Lane piece by Josie Marsden. He writes-
This is a photograph of the Glenside Pipe Band with their Scottish Country Dancers taken on Johnson Street outside the Prince of Wales Hotel where we used to practice on Sunday mornings and Monday evenings. I don't know what year it was taken, perhaps 1960. The band was very popular because of the added attraction of the female dancers. I was a piper in the band from the age of 13 years to 17 years (1958-1962). I was proud to belong to the band and still regret to this day of leaving it. All the members were great to get along with, they were good times.
The members of the band are from left to right(excluding the female dancers), Brian Nolan (bass drum), Tony Bolton (piper), Bernard Taylor (Pipe Major), Terry Howson?(drummer), unknown member, Brian Turner(piper), John Parkinson (piper), 3 unknown members, - Cartmell (Drum Major), 2 unknown members, Derek Cartmell (piper), unknown member (drummer), Jack Taylor(piper).
I apologise for forgetting the unknown names, and the only dancer I can name is Margaret, seated behind the bass drum. I often wonder what became of my set of bagpipes!
I was born in the village of Guide in a little cottage and we lived with my Grandma and the rest of her family until I was 8 months old. When I was born the miner’s strike was in progress and as my father was a miner, times were hard. The strike went on for 26 weeks.
My mother had to go back to work when I was a fortnight old to keep us. She was a weaver and the local mill was just down the Lane. My grandma used to take me unto the Mill when it was time for me to be fed, she would weave for my mother until she fed me.
When I was 8 months old we got our own cottage at Eccleshill. These I remember as very happy times. There were two farms nearby and all the children used to play together and were welcomed by the Farmers wives. I remember the time when I was taught how to make butter, it was a tedious process and I suppose the children enjoyed it more so than the farmers wives.
When I was four it was time to start school and all the children went together and came home together. Parents did not have to worry the same about the safety of their children and most went shopping and left their doors unlocked. It seemed a happier world, even without all the modern equipment and material things we have today.
At the age of seven we moved into Darwen. It made things easier for my Parents work wise. I quite knew my own mind by this age and decided I wanted to Dance when I grew up. I asked and asked for Ballet lessons and in the end my request was granted It was a very expensive training and my parents worked hard to provide this. When I was nineteen I decided I had got enough qualifications to start teaching. Stage work was out of the question as the war was on. This turned out to be my career for the next few years, until the time I got married and had my own family.
Edna's photo shows her husband and his work mates
Joan Preston, 1st February 2007
I was born in 1943 which was during the war the youngest of three children. My father was away fighting in the war and my two older brothers and myself lived with mother in a council house, which in those days were very modern and comfortable, my Grandmother was always staying with us as she was a widow and lived in a old house with no electric and a shared yard with 6 other families but she did have her own toilet.
My first memory is my father coming home and not knowing him, after having Mum and Grandmother I resented someone coming in and taking over.
Another early memory is my eldest brother making a snow house for me it must have been in 1947 which was a cold winter. The winters seemed very cold then and ice used to form on the inside of the windows. When I was at school we never got the day off because of the weather if the buses were taken off we had to walk.
The school I went to was about a mile from my home and we had to walk along the canal bank which was nice in summer but in winter all the water used to freeze over .
The school was in Dean St and the children used to play in the street and sit on peoples doorsteps. There was a Infant, Junior and Senior school on the same site so it was very crowded, we had PE in the territorial army barracks in Canterbury St which was very cold in winter.
We also went to the pictures quite a lot the nearest one to me was the Empire which is now a lovely theatre after many years of fundraising to preserve the building, and not demolished like some of the other buildings in Blackburn like the market hall clock and Thwaites arcade The market hall clock was unusual that it had a ball at the top that dropped down on a spike every day.
After the war people had a lot more money to spend but there was nothing in the shops and food was still on ration People went on holiday more and Butlin’s was very popular, my father wouldn’t go because it reminded him of the war being a camp so we used to go to Blackpool where the weather seemed to be very good and we spent lots of hours on the beach where Mother and Father hired a deck chair and we used to dig and build until the tide came in and all was lost. We also went down south when we were a little older in 1953 we went to Brighton and stayed over in London for a few hours, it was very exiting seeing the sites we had only seen in the papers and on television during the Coronation we also went to London Tower to see the crown jewels and travelled on the underground it was a different world from Blackburn.
At Easter we had the fair in Blackburn on the market area and the pot fair which I enjoyed visiting when I walked along King William street and turned the corner you could hear all the music and see the bright lights and smell all the toffee apples and candy floss it was magical, It was only on for Easter Saturday and Monday, Tuesday because the market was back on Wednesday like nothing had been.
As I got older I loved to go dancing at Lyons Dancing school which was at Darwen boundary where we learnt ballroom dancing and took medals then at weekend we did Rock & Roll dancing and met lots of friends.
Joan Preston's grandfather was involved with the building of Aqueduct Bridge at Ewood.
I moved to Darwen only fifteen years ago and so know very little about the town, but my first impression was very pleasing. Driving down the A666 the first thing we noticed were the stone terraced houses and the small cottages which have great character. Into the town centre with its cobbled bus station, town hall, and market, all very compact ;but with one surprising feature: a large oval cylinder in the middle of the road, and at that point just what we were looking for, a toilet! Although it looked rather out of place in this lovely little market town, it was a very welcome sight .
Altogether, we found Darwen quite charming, with its winding roads and hills and we are very happy here.
Nursing in the 1970’s at Queen's Park Hospital.
I started nursing as a Cadet Nurse at Blackburn Infirmary in 1969 earning four pounds and ten shillings a week, for four and a half days work, the fifth being day release at Blackburn Technical College. Eventually I started my nurse training in January 1971. We started with a six weeks preliminary training (we called this P T S for short). We were a group of approximately 15 girls and 2 boys. At the start of our training we were in a class room setting having lectures on basic nursing care, with our Sister Tutor Miss Frankland. At the end of the six weeks we had a preliminary exam, and on passing this we were allocated to the wards to launch our nursing careers. Miss Frankland was an eccentric lady who seemed very prim and proper but had a vast knowledge of nursing.
Mr Winterburn was the Head of Nurse Training, a very nice approachable man. We had a practical room with a hospital bed and various nursing practical nursing aids, and in this bed sat “Mrs Bedford” who got the best possible nursing care over many years. She sat majestically in her bed awaiting many treatments and procedures, starting with the bed bath which had to be performed exactly to “The Book”. This at times involved much laughter and hilarity and then a stern word, or a look would bring us back to being the sensible people we were meant to be. Many of the practical procedures were practised on each other, such as lifting and taking blood pressures, this again produced much laughter.
After our six weeks of training we were allocated our first ward placement, where we wore a uniform of a turquoise dress with a white starched apron and cap. We were also given a blue gabardine with a belt and a navy blue red lined cape.
My first placement was at Queen’s Park Hospital on a Surgical Ward, which I approached with much trepidation only ever having worked at Blackburn Infirmary. Queen’s Park still had a reputation with many elderly people of having once been the dreaded workhouse. (Old legends take a long time to die)
I met a friend with my suitcase one cold January Sunday evening on Blackburn Boulevard and we caught the bus to Queen’s Park Hospital. On arrival we were allocated our bedrooms, which had a sink and dark wood matching furniture which probably today could possibly be worth a small fortune. The bathrooms had a big slipper bath that you could fill up to your chin, which was very nice after doing a long night shift. The sitting room was very cosy, it was a large chintzy room with a big coal fire and a piano, which entertained us all on cold winter evenings even though no one could play except one girl, but all this added to our fun. We were looked after by a Home Sister who took on the role of surrogate parent and tried to keep us on the right path. We got tea, coffee, milk, butter, and bread included in our board, and as we were paid monthly we had a few lean days at the end of the month when money was tight, but we shared everything with our friends and I was lucky in having one particular friend who always had a well stocked larder. In the early days we either got two days off or one-day and either a half day early or half day late shift. We were allowed one late pass a week to stay out till eleven o’clock but we had several scams to overcome this. You had to write your name in the book to say you would be in late and on coming home contact the porter to be escorted to children’s ward and Sister would tick your name off to say you were back, (some times depending on which Sister was on duty she would give you half a pound of butter which was always welcome). The night porter would then escort you to the nurses’ home, unlock the door to let you in then lock you in for the night. The nurses’ home still stands even though there have been many changes; it now houses among other disciplines the Occupational Health Team.
Livesey Library 14/10/08
EILEEN SALMON, 25/01/2007
We would meet on the MARKET SQUARE it was a riot of colours and noise.
All the churches from the town were represented and the event was planned from one year to the next.
We would walk all through the parishes of the town being greeted with cheers as each parish walked through their own “patch”.
It was a wonderful day and we were rewarded by money gifts, pennies were thrown as we passed through the parishes.
This was at the R.O.F. Chorley 1962.
Punch-card operator, this was the start of the “computer age”
The machine was a numeric key board, as on the keyboards now.
A card was fed into the machine and key indentations made into the cards.
This information was the various jobs e.g. wages salary’s accounts.
The training was on three month probation during which time we had to attain a speed of 360words per hour. No easy task.
The trainee was required to attend day release at Alston Hall Continuation College. We could choose to do whatever subject we liked, commercial, art, and were the popular.
This lasted until we were 18years.
Promotion within the department was possible and most of the girls continued to the machine-room, continuation of the work using machines.
Who remembers Park Road School on a wet playtime day?
The younger children were taught at ground level and from 7 years of age the children were taught upstairs. When playtime was wet, the children from the top classes were lined up on the stairs starting with the young children at the bottom. Then the singing started. The whole of playtime was devoted to this activity. I think they sang the ‘pop songs’ of the day and the ones many relatives would no doubt sing on a Saturday night at the local pub!
Do you remember the Grand Theatre, once housed on Jubilee Street? Around Christmas the pantomime season started with visiting troupes acting out Cinderella, Goldilocks and all the other favourites. The song sheet would fall during the show and as well as the audience joining in the singing, children would be invited up on to the stage to perform their party piece – songs, poems, nursery rhymes etc. The best would receive a small present before departing from the stage.
S P Simmons 25 Jan 07
Memories of my childhood days
I was born in Blackburn, and brought up in a pram & toy shop in King Street. It was a very old building; it had five floors including a cellar and an attic. The attic was never used because it was crumbling. The cellar was used for sawing and chopping wood for the coal fires. There was a wash-house out at the back. We used to live in a room at the back of the shop, and we went through a door into a small narrow kitchen. The toilet was in the corner of the back yard. At night, we had to go through the shop to go to bed. There were no inside toilets in those days, or baths. We had to have a tin bath in the living room in front of the fire.
The shop on King Street was number 15-17, Duckworth's. This map shows the location
Retirement of Sister Hempsall of Queen's Park Hospital and Alderman John Shorrock.
The Blackburn Times of 11th June, 1954, covered the event
Olive Shorrock, January 25th.2007
I started in the nursery class at Intack Council School in 1936; the school was fairly new being part of the Intack council estate. It was very modern compared to some other schools. We had indoor toilets, which were unusual in those days; most schools had separate entrances for boys and girls and also separate playgrounds. In the nursery class we had to have a nap in the afternoon, we had green canvas beds, which were stacked in a corner of the classroom. The teacher was Miss Hall and we all loved her. During the War our playing field was dug up, we had to grow vegetables on part of it, mainly root vegetables such as Swedes and potatoes and carrots. On Fridays we took a basket to school with an order and a bag with the money and the boys in the top class had to dig up the vegetables and make up the orders that we collected at the end of the day. The rest of the field was used to build a large air-raid shelter which was used a few times when the siren went. One day a bomb was dropped on the railway line nearby, they were probably aiming to hit the electricity station at Whitebirk but the bomb missed its target. We had to use the shelter a few times for practice, all the teachers had a large tin of sweets which were passed round all the children, and we were very excited about it! When I went to secondary school, which was Blackburn High School it was completely different, we were in a very old house called Crosshill, it was at the top of Preston New Road and we had to get there on two trams. We were still carrying our gas masks, which had been given to all of us at the beginning of the war, I don’t remember how long we carried them but I know they were a nuisance!
Mayoral procession from the 1950's
I have happy memories of Mercer Park Clayton-le-Moors which was left to the town by John Mercer and his sister. John was an inventor who became famous for the mercerisation of cotton. The house within the grounds was known as “Oakenshaw House” where my grandfather was coachman.The park is still enjoyed today by the children who love the swings and roundabouts, although sadly there are no longer the tennis courts or bandstand.
I recently enjoyed a picnic there with friends who provided delicious food.
There must be many Claytonians who have happy memories of days in Mercer Park.
Rev. Geoff Tolley, February 1st 2007
My early days were spent in Ramsbottom when it was part of the old County of Lancashire. My earliest memory, about 1938 was to see a circus travelling along the road (A56) with the elephants and other animals moving slowly along with the crowds.
Most of my family life was spent with other members of the family, cousins etc (about 40) so we were able to enjoy ourselves. My father was a colour mixer at Rosebank fabrics (Turnbull and Stockdale). I can still see him walking back over the fields with his wicker lunch basket and it must have been a very tiring job. He must have been good at his work as the firm got him early release after the war to return to his own job.
Our house had two bedrooms and an old fashioned fire grate which included the oven water boiler and two arms to swing over the fire for boiling a kettle. (They have one in Clitheroe Museum.). We had a battery radio (Home and Light Program) and my father had the batteries charged up each week. We had no central heating but a very small fireplace in the main building. We travelled by bus or steam train and for holidays went to stay with relatives in Surrey or the train to the seaside.
Apart from the house we lived in the school and playing fields etc have now gone and have been replaced with the M65 motorway. I went to the same school for the whole of my education at that time the senior school was Secondary Modern and good for its day. I spent the war years in the Junior School and times must have been hard. My mother took me to school and collected me even through the deep snow of 1941. Food was very limited as everything was rationed. Christmas parties (such as they were) were limited to jelly and ice cream. Our head was James Torrance and the teachers were changed over the period of the late 1940’s as men and women from the war had retrained as teachers. During the war the Local Authority arranged “Holidays at home” in the local park when we had shows and games.
When the second world war came along in 1939 everything changed. At Christmas I got a small car and when my father saw “Made in Germany” on it he took it straight back to the shop and changed it for one “Made in England”- how times have changed! The local football field was a possible landing strip for the enemy so planks were dug in and stood up about 10 feet. My father was initially and air aid warden and in the St. Johns Ambulance Corps until he was called up into the army into the Pioneer Corps. He spent the whole war in a hospital in Nottingham where his first aid skills were put to good use. Another memory was one of my close friends being told his father had been killed in France. Another one was bombed out and I think it was Christmas 1944 a flying bomb was heard (we were under the stairs) and it landed on a house in Tottington where a party was being held and a number were killed. At 3a.m. one morning a knock came to the door when a neighbour said the war was over and we went into the streets to celebrate. Flags were everywhere and streets parties were held on each street. The King and Queen came to our town and we walked from school to the Market Square where we saw them.
Much of my leisure hours as a child were around the Sunday school as it was central to our community. Youth Club, badminton, football, dancing(including our own dance band, you name it we had it. My interest in cricket(which I still have) was nurtured during this period and the local cricket ground seems to be the only thing that has not changed over the years. Some of the old buildings are still there but have a change of use. It still has some cobbled streets and the railway line (which I travelled daily to work on) is now part of the East Lancashire Railway but the old station has gone. Ramsbottom was a cotton town with the River Irwell running through the centre. It also had dye and printing works and the river changed colour every time you went passed it. It has lost most of its industry and the river is now clean with picnic forms set in green areas.
I spent hours as a child walking the local moors which had a Grants Tower which actually fell down during the war. The Grants were two brothers who came down from Scotland and saw the valley and built a mill there. It has been said that the Cheryble brothers in Charles Dickens were based on the Grant Brothers.
We had two picture places – the Royal and the Empire each showing two films each week. These were very memorable days and a good grounding for my future life.
Our family health was generally OK and pre 1948 when the National Health Service was introduced the “Doctors man” came every Friday night to collect his sixpence.
When I left school in 1950 I went to work as an apprentice at Bentley and Jackson’s, Papermakers engineers which actually built a number of paper machines in Darwen and the cylinder on Bolton Road roadside museum is one of them. The thing I remember in going for my first job was visiting several firms all who were keen to have me as there was so much work and many vacancies. When I was 18 I started to work overtime which was 7-30a.m. to 7-30p..m. Tuesday Wednesday and Thursday plus Saturday morning and Sunday. Short time was not working overtime. In winter there were times when I never saw daylight at home for weeks on end.
I remained with the firm until 1956 when I did National Service in the RAF. We went to RAF Cardington (Where the R 101 airship was built and the massive hangers are still there). After spending 2 we moved to West Kirby on the Wirral for ten weeks “Square-bashing” it was called. I met some good friends at this time and the camps shops brought in some leading musicians of the day Lonny Donnigan etc. From there it was Sutton on Hull for three months training as a RAF crash rescue /fire fighter. From there it was RAF Swinderby for the remainder of the two years before returning to civvy street.
We dealt with a number of fires and thankfully, only a couple of plane crashes. We had a flu epidemic at the station and I exchanged duties for one of the Battle of Britain Sundays and the crew that went were all killed when a plane crashed on the vehicle. Swinderby was in Lincolnshire and one of the exchange days for our “Crew” was to go to RAF Scampton where the Dam Busters flew from. This was 1958 and some still remembered them taking off.
Patricia Turner, 17th February 2007
St Barnabas’ School, Watery Lane Darwen
In 1948 when I was 5 years old we moved to what was then Waterfield Street now an Avenue and I was sent to St Barnabas’ School.
My first teacher was Miss Nowell and I can remember being told to sit down when I was measuring how far I could reach up a metal pillar which was in the classroom. I was tall for my age so I could easily reach up the farthest.
In the next class the teacher was Mrs Walsh who had a dog call Rags which she brought to school with her and which sat in a corner of the classroom. She was very strict and used to smack the back of your legs if you read any words wrongly when she was listening to you read. She also used to take sewing classes and I was hopeless at sewing and used to cry on Thursday mornings because I didn’t want to go.
The third year had rather an eccentric teacher call Miss Booth . She was a very good singer and I can remember her teaching us to sing. She had very large feet and wore sandals most of the time.
In the fourth year I was taught by Mr Dickinson. It was his first teaching post and was quite young He came to school on a motorbike and used to leave it in a relatives backyard in Elliott Avenue.
The next class was the dreaded Miss Stansfield. She was only small but we were frightened to death of her. She used to rap your knuckles with a ruler if you did anything wrong and I don’t think I ever saw her smile once.
The top class was Mr Lightbown’s I thought he was wonderful and I tried very hard in his class. He was a very keen cricketer and used to coach some of the boys. They painted wickets on the side of the dustbin and I can remember him standing on a chair at the side of the boy dropping the ball in front of him to hit. Luckily I passed for the Grammar School under-age and had to stay in the top class for two years.
The headmaster was Mr Marsden and only took us for one lesson a week . It was about the Tundra and I can still remember them. He was very keen to have a lot of passes for the Grammar School and to help he arranged for children in the top class to have Ovaltine at break time. On the day we sat the exam at the Grammar School he made arrangements with the local bakery at the bottom of Cup Lane for us to have a drink of Ovaltine there at break time. When the results came out he used to hang a huge Union Jack flag out of the school window.
The toilets were outside and only part of the playground was flagged the rest was just rough dirt but it was great for playing marbles. At first school meals were served in the infants classroom and later on we moved to the Institute across the road in Watery Lane.
I still have all the class photographs of my years at St Barnabas’ and look at them with great fondness.