My name is Eileen Fielding.
I was born in Springfield Maternity Hospital Blackburn.
I lived with my parents in the lovely village of Feniscowles, and went to the local primary school. We lived in a two up two down in Sutton Street .The front parlour was only used on special occasions, e.g. Christmas, Birthdays, Christenings etc.
What we called the back room was the centre of all household activity, washing bathing, eating. The bathing was done once a week in the old tin bath in front of the coal fire.
I slept in the back bedroom of the house, it had an oilcloth floor covering which was mopped once a week. At either side of the bed which was central to the room were peg rugs made by Mother.
There was a fire grate in the room which was only used when I was ill; the coal was carried on the shovel up from the scullery. In the winter time ice could be found on the inside of the bedroom windows, no double glazing then.
After my sister was born at home we moved to the butcher’s shop in the village, where we had an inside bathroom, with wash basin and bath but still had to go down the yard to the toilet. This in winter was very cold, sometimes having to break the ice to use it. All good fun.
My mother used to work in the Eclipse cotton mill in Feniscowles along with her parents and aunts. My father worked in a wood yard in Blackburn.
My mother tells me about the time my grandmother and her seven sisters lived in the old Toll House at Hoghton, where my great great grandfather used to be head gardener at the Tower. All the girls used to work in the old weaving sheds in Hoghton Bottoms. When he retired the family had to move out of the cottage .They went to live in Feniscowles but still walked all the way to work every day, starting their journey at 5.30am every morning, whatever the weather.
When visiting my great great aunts who lived down Chapel Lane, Hoghton, I used to dread using their toilet as this used to be a big metal drum with a board on the top which had a hole in the middle. I was always frightened of falling in.
Maureen Garratty won the Library's Love Month Competition which was held in February. This is the story of how she met her husband John.
I just had to try to put into words the love we share.
I first met my husband in 1953; I was eighteen and he was sixteen. I was a weaver working at Cotton Brother’s Mill on Appleby Street, Blackburn and on my way to work, I had to pass Aspin’s Wood Yard on Eden Street. I always went home for lunch with my sister and my Aunt, and most days on returning there would be male employees sitting on the window sills, eating and chatting, with a wolf whistle now and then! Little did I know that my husband was amongst them.
I remember as a shy girl of eighteen looking into those brown eyes, not knowing if we would ever meet.
Like most families, we had to help out at home and, one Saturday morning as I was cleaning out the back yard, looking glamorous in my apron and wellingtons, my brother arrived with his mates. I couldn’t believe it, I saw those two brown eyes staring at me; yes, it was the boy I would later marry!
It will be our Golden Wedding Anniversary on the 22nd March 2008. We’ve had our ups and downs over the years, maybe more downs, but our love for each other has got us through.
We have two daughters and five grandchildren. I only hope that they are never afraid to say ‘I love you’.
Tom Gavin has supplied two stories. The first tells the story of a former scholar from Stonyhurst College and his brave exploits in WW2. The second is of Tom's working life in Mill Hill.
1. The 1st Battalion The East Lancs. Regiment embarked on H.M.T .Duke of Argyle on the 18th April 1940. They moved by train to Le Mans. On the 24th of April they moved to Armentieres to prepare for battle. They engaged in battle but nothing of note took place.
My story now moves to the 31st of May when B Company with Captain H.M. Ervine-Andrews in command moved to the “front line”. In with them was the Company clerk my brother Jim. At 0500hrs on the 1st of June strong enemy attacks began. The attack in front of B Coy .was beaten off. At 1100hrs B.Coy reported very heavy attacks, and that ammunition was running short. Captain Ervine-Andrews sent his second in command with a few men including Jim to look for ammo in the burnt out and abandoned vehicles that were in the nearby roads and fields. Having collected the boxes of ammunition and under very heavy fire Jim carried the boxes on his head chest deep in a steep banked canal. Captain Ervine-Andrews was ordered to hold the line until the ammo ran out. He took his men to an old barn and when the ammo ran out they retreated.
Ervine-Andrews killed 17 Germans with a rifle and many more with a Bren Gun. For this he was awarded The V.C. It was said at the time; had he and his men not been so steadfast in repelling attacks it would even more difficult to embark the last of the B,E,F ,Ervine-Andrews having held the line for almost ten hours, evacuated his wounded in the remaining carrier and led the seven men left swimming or wading up to the chin in water for more than a mile. The eight men arrived at Dunkirk wearing only underwear and tin hats. They sailed home on one of the boats to leave Dunkirk.
Ervine-Andrews said in 1988; ‘We were surrounded on the banks of the Canal de Bergues about seven miles from Dunkirk. In the end only eight of us out of 85 came out alive.’
For his part in the battle the second in command was awarded The MC.
Jim was mentioned in Dispatches. Captain Ervine- Andrews was awarded The VC.
This VC is now in Blackburn Museum, why?
The family of Captain Ervine-Andrews donated his VC to the East Lancashire Regiment, with the stipulation that it was to be given to Blackburn Museum.
2. In the 1950’s Mill Hill was the first place in the UK to have a Tufting Machine designed and built in Mill Hill Mill. I had just been demobbed and started work building this machine. I worked for Heatley and Son who designed this from a mock up machine. The machine could make carpet up to 5 feet wide and went into production in June 1955.These machines were made for British Tufting Machine Co.
The machines very quickly got to making carpet up to 15 feet wide. Soon after Cobble Bros. came to the UK. and Blackburn became the carpet centre of the world. The man behind this venture was Mr B Mercer.
Soon after this venture Mr Mercer had a better brain wave-Netlon. Again the frames were made by Heatley and Son and me. Don’t run down Blackburn we led the world and maybe could again!!
Thomas Gavin. 26/02/2008
back to top
Radio Blackburn (5 September 1977) 'Grapevine', Dr Peter Grime, Blackburn's Community Health Physician, speaks on a campaign to eradicate head lice in the town's schoolchildren.
7 mins 44 secs
This recording appears on Cotton Town by kind permission of Radio Lancashire.
This production is protected by copyright, and may be used for private viewing only. It may neither be broadcast in any way, including the internet, nor be copied or reproduced by electronic means, without written permission from the copyright holders.
back to top
Years ago winters were very severe. Ponds froze over. Children used to go ice skating on frozen ponds and lakes. Kids would slide down slopes on home crafted toboggans, sometimes dragged along by their play mates pulling long ropes.
Children used to form groups and have snowball fights; some of them stuffing snow balls down the necks of each other's jerseys.
The children loved to build snow men and sometimes became mischievous throwing snow balls at windows and passers by.
I was born in 1943 and lived in Darwen until I was 18 years old, attending St Joseph’s Junior School and Notre Dame Grammar School. I remember Darwen as being a friendly hard working community and although it was full of industry, it was quite easy to get out into the countryside and enjoy the benefits of the open air. After leaving school I moved away from the area for quite a few years, returning with my family when my son was a little boy. The prosperity in the area had improved noticeably. Now no longer do we have outside toilets or cold houses and a lot of the old buildings have gone but some still remain as reminders of the hard past.
The teachers in schools no longer relied on using a cane.
I still travel to Blackburn sometimes on the bus remembering the long journey I used to do to attend school, and the chilblains we used to have from getting cold waiting at the bus stop.
The view from the hills is a lot clearer now as the air is clean.
Pat Hancock 7.2.2008
Barbara Hargreaves 26.2.2008
I lived in a two up two down on Paterson Street Blackburn with my mother and father and my sister Ann. I was born in 1945, started school when I was three at Christ Church Infants, and moved to Blackamoor Open Air School when I was five. I have lots of memories from my early school days: we used to have a bottle of milk every morning plus a spoon full of malt, and another bottle in the afternoon with a biscuit. Everyone in the school went to sleep for half an hour every day after dinner and we had our own gardens for growing flowers. I remember sports day on the field, playing marbles in the playground, swapping scraps with my friends, skipping, and playing ball games.
I remember playing out in the street. All the kids on the street used to play together with a big rope that stretched across the street, and we all used to skip. On Sundays we went to Sunday school after which we would go for walks with mum and dad when the weather was nice.
At Easter we would go round the fair. Mum used to take us on the waltzer, dad didn’t go on as he wasn’t keen. When I was older we would go down to watch them putting the rides up on the Market Square in front of the Market Hall, and sometimes we would get a free ride.
In the schools in the 1950’s we used to have percussion bands and there was a competition every year at King George's Hall. There was also the town choir run by a lady called Miss Simpson.
MEMORIES OF CHRISTMAS PAST
I went picking greenery on Christmas Eve afternoon in 1948 (we lived in the country then) with my mum, who was expecting a baby, my half sister who was 13, my sister who was 4 and myself, I was 3. It was snowy and we were wrapped up in bonnets, scarves crossed over our chests and pinned at the back and our mittens. We had our ‘wellies’ on. I remember getting into the hedge out of the snow to pick ivy. Mum decorated the house and put up the branch with the sweets tied on. I don’t remember the actual Christmas day.
Mum had my brother on December 30th in Queens Park Hospital and she came home in early January. The ambulance couldn’t get up the track in the snow so they had to carry mum and baby up to the house. This was my younger brother.
The following Christmas, when I was four, we went to a party at Haydock Laundry where mum worked. I had new black patent leather ankle strap shoes on and when we had our photo taken, I sat with my feet straight up so they would get a good picture of my shoes. It was a good one of the soles!! Father Christmas came and we were given sweets and a brush and comb set. Strange gift for very little girls. I remember Mum coming for us and we walked home in the rain. For Christmas that year I got a pink plastic pram with a ‘flannel dolly’ inside it. That’s a doll made from a folded face flannel. I can still make them. I played out in the front garden with the pram so no snow that Christmas. My Mum died in the April following that Christmas.
I remember the next two Christmases but can’t remember anymore until I was in my teens. I only remember getting books, games and clothes for Christmas but I can’t remember actual Christmas days. One of us always got Ludo and Draughts which we played together around the table. We would have the ‘wireless’ on and Dad would join in. We had wonderful evenings playing Ludo or cards.
We would make paper chains with coloured strips of paper and flour paste. We sat round the table making these on Christmas Eve and Dad would hang them up for the corners of the room to the central ceiling light. We would have a branch of a tree and would tie sweets and lollipops on and other decorations made from milk bottle tops. We would have our supper (jam butties and a drink of warm milk), hang up one of Dad’s socks and go to bed. The three of us slept together in a double bed and we would tell stories so that we could stay awake to see Father Christmas. We never managed it!
On Christmas morning, we would creep to the bottom of the bed in the dark to see if our stockings were full. They always were. We had an apple and an orange, nuts and sweets and a 3d bit at the very bottom. One year, Hazel and I got a dolly each, oh! What riches!! We made beds out of boxes and old rags. The year after we got a blackboard and easel and a desk and chair (all homemade). We had to share them. My brother got a fort (homemade) and some lead soldiers. We always got a book each and we would swap them when read.
We usually had a chicken or a rabbit for Christmas dinner with mince pies for afters. Dad would light a fire in the bedroom and we would play with our toys all day. After our evening meal, we would sit round the fire and Dad would tell us ghost stories until bed time.
Pauline Hodkinson – 04/8/2007
Josephine Holmes 17/2/2007
I was born 1940 in a town called Cockermouth in Cumberland, but when I was four my mother moved down to Darwen, our first house was on Redearth St, It was a two up two down. We had a large black leaded fireplace in the kitchen which my mother used to clean with blacklead cleaner ,the floor was flag stones that was scrubbed every week by my mother and then she made a border with donkey stone she got from the rag and bone man.
The first school I went to was Holy Trinity. At play time we used to play with skipping ropes and hop scotch. From there I went to Avondale sec mod where I was lucky to be in Mrs Briggs class.
At fifteen I left school, when we moved to Farnworth to be near my dad’s work. He was a miner and the mine at Hoddlesden had closed down, so we moved to be near his work.
I started work in a paper mill in Farnworth where I stayed for a year, but we moved back to Darwen to be near family and friends.
I then got a job at Premier Mill as a battery filler. I used to fill all the batteries at the end of frames for the weavers. They where a good lot to work for although the work was very dusty.We used to wear clogs as they were the best things for your feet at the time,They where made of leather tops and wooden soles on the bottom. Some had rubber nailed on the bottom and some had iron shods on as they called them which used to spark when you hit the paving stones. They made a heck of a racket when you ran to work. From there I went to India mill and was a doffer and gaiter until I got married. I was lucky really because when I was a child I went into a cotton mill on Union Street to see a friend’s mother and the noise was horrific and there was very little space between the aisles. There where large leather belts at the end of the frames whipping round at a terrific speed. We had to be very careful as we were told, a girl had been scalped, having had her hair caught in the belts.
I never forgot that and was very wary after that.
My friend Dorothy and I used to go to the pictures on Saturday afternoon, to the Olympia, where they also had shows put on by the Darwen Amateur Society. Other times we went to the Ritz or the Savoy, none of which are here today.
Margaret Haworth has 2 photographs of her father as a member of 2 football teams.
Alan Haworth 1916-83,born, lived and died in Darwen.
He served his country in World War II in the desert.
The first photograph is when Dad was playing for the football side where he worked for T & R Eccles. He won the Infirmary Cup which was played at Ewood. He had a scout watching him at one of the matches but he was not selected for the real Ewood team. Does anyone recognize any of the other players?
The second photograph is when he was playing for the Church Football team St John’s 1938/9 season.
This video appears on Cotton Town by kind permission of its creator, Tony Hayden.
This recording is protected by copyright, and may be used for private viewing only. It may neither be broadcast in any way, including the internet, nor be copied or reproduced by electronic means, without written permission from the copyright holders.
With grateful thanks to Tony Hayden, and also, to Community History Volunteer, David Whalley. Published January 2022.
back to top