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Guy Fawkes: 5th November | The Bath Tub


 ​Darwen Memories

Hilda Graham
Hilda Graham.jpg 
Hilda Graham contacted Cotton Town on the 8th June 2004 telling us she had vivid memories of her Darwen childhood asking us if we would like to share them with others.
"My name Is Hilda Graham.  I was born in Darwen, Lancashire England on the 24th February, 1926.  Both my parents worked in the cotton weaving mills which was the main industry in Lancashire. I attended St Josephs school starting at the age of 3 years.
When the depression came in the early 1930's, most of the mills closed.  My family eventually moved to Corby, Northamptonshire, where they were building a big steel works.  It was being built by a company from Scotland Stewart's and Lloyds.  My father found employment there.
I still call Darwen home and have so many memories most of them happy from my life there, I have visited on my trips back to England and still have freinds there,I now live in Texas with my husband and family who I met during WW2. We have six children, eighteen grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.I hope to be able to leave them many memories, my grandparents were all dead before I was born and I know so little about them much to my regret."
Hilda writes her stories in order to pass her memories on to her Grandchildren.


Christmas Mem​ories

by Hilda Gra​ham
I was looking at pictures today and found one of the house I was born in, and thought about the Christmases past. 
The picture below is of me in front of this house. I noticed that the address had been changed to no. 18 from no. 2 Bury Fold Lane because more new homes had been built below where I had lived as a young child.  That used to be a wooded area so they changed the postal address to accommodate this change. There were five small two-story houses in a row when I lived there. The original houses were between one and two hundred years old. Oh, how things have changed over the years. This picture was taken in 1994.  If you notice in the picture how short the door is, I am 5 ft. tall and you can see by the picture that the door is not a lot a lot taller than I.  A lot of the old houses in Britain are that way; I guess people must not have been as tall back then.

One thing came to my mind about the cooking of all the Christmas goodies.  I thought about how my mother and father liked to cook and wondered how in the world they managed to make such delicious foods in the oven.  I will try to describe the oven.  It was part of the fireplace and we used to use coal for heating.  When the oven wasn't in use they had what they called a draft; it was a piece of metal that slid over an opening between the fire and the oven.  When they needed to use the oven they would get the poker and raise the metal slide.  This would pull the heat into the oven and make it ready for cooking.  I have not the slightest idea how they controlled the temperature in the oven.  I know there was no thermostat so it must have been by guess and by golly.  Anyway they managed and as I said, the food was always delicious.
Now I must tell you what I did keep in mind.  I was about 5 years old at the time, my father took such pride and joy in the appearance of the fireplace and oven combination.  It was made of cast iron and was black with brass trim in front of the fireplace.  There were about three rows of bricks and in front of the bricks was a brass fender to prevent the coals from falling out of the fireplace and rolling out onto the main floor.  Every Friday night my father used to polish the fireplace and oven with something called blacklead, a type of liquid polish.  He would put the polish on with a cloth and then polish with a soft brush and it seemed to take for hours.  You could literally see your face in the oven door.  He really made it shine and then he did the same thing with the brass trimmings using" brasso" (you can still buy this), then the grand finale were the bricks, which were white, and they used something like a pumice stone.  It went on wet and when it dried it was pretty and white.  I recall one Christmas we had decorated, making the chains with coloured strips of paper and fastening them to the ceiling from corner to corner.  The tree was trimmed and we had to use little candles almost like birthday candles which fit in little candle holders clipped to the tree branches.  We only lit these on Christmas Eve, and had the tree catch fire more than once.  Of course in those days they did not have the electric lights.  Father had gone through the usual polishing on Friday night and if my memory is correct Christmas day was on the Monday.  My parents both worked, yes, back in those days it took two paychecks to make ends meet as it does today in most families.  My parents worked half days on Saturday my brother and myself would stay at home by ourselves until they came home at noon.  Well, big brother Teddy went out to play, I was so excited about Christmas and was so proud of the decorated house but it lacked something, so I looked at the fireplace and oven and thought how pretty it would be if it was all white?  You guessed it!   I took the pumice stone and went all over my father's blacklead brass and all.  Oh, I was so proud of myself and could hardly wait until my parents got home to see what I had accomplished!!!   When I think back on this I realize more and more what wonderful parents I was blessed with.  They knew how proud I was, and after the initial shock to them (I would have a heart attack if my children had done this) they said it looked very nice, but the oven would not work right with the white residue all over it as the heat would not penetrate and they would not be able to cook Christmas dinner, so they painstakingly removed all the pumice stone and restored the blacklead shine.  It took hours but they never made me feel guilty. That was a Christmas to remember. 
Auntie Doris and Uncle Billy, my mother's brother and sister, always came.  Uncle Billy always had a big bar of Cadburys chocolate to put in our stockings and Auntie Doris always managed some kind of a toy for us.  How I loved them both.  I remember on the Christmas morning it had been snowing and it was so cold and the roads were so slick, and my mother remembered she had forgotten the cream for whipping, so Uncle Billy elected to go to the farmhouse at the foot of the moors.  I was going with him.  It was an uphill climb and it seemed for every step forward we slipped back two, but it was fun.  Uncle Billy held my hand and when we got to the farm they insisted that we should have some hot cocoa and homemade scones and sit before a roaring fire in the kitchen until we thawed out that.  Our trip back home consisted of trying not to slide forward as we were going downhill.  When we got home I was freezing again and remember my father taking my hands between his and rubbing them hard to get the circulation going again He said it might hurt and it did but I did not tell him for he was trying to help.  We always went to church on Christmas morning and the congregation all stayed for breakfast.  The children always wanted to hurry home to play with new toys but we had to be patient and when we got home the turkey cooking in the oven always smelled so good.  What wonderful memories.  How I wish I could re-live them once more, be a child again, but that is wishful thinking and I must count my blessings that God gave me these wonderful memories.
I remember something else one time my parents took me to what seemed to be an alley behind a house, I was 5 years old at the time I remember an old shed it might have been where they stored coal.  I remember seeing what to me was an older man he was sitting with his legs crossed and wearing what seemed to be a shawl draped around his shoulders I was so close I could have touched him.  There were quite a lot of people there, just staring at this man I felt a little afraid of him and also sorry. 

When we left to go home I asked my father who that man was and my father replied you have just seen a person who you will read about in your history classes when you get older his name is Ghandi and he is from India. I also was still curious and wanted to know why he was sitting in the shed and my father told me he would not accept accommodations and was usually fasting and protesting, at that time it meant little to me.
did not give much more thought to this until I was much older, I believe he was in Darwen in 1931 and later attended some event I believe horse judging contest but not in Darwen I am not sure of this.  Now when I think back how I wish I had been old enough to realize what I was witnessing and wouldn?t it have been something to treasure if I had the use of a camera what an accomplishment that would have been for me. I am sure some people took pictures.  I believe there must be a story or a site somewhere on the internet but I have not found it yet.
Text and photograph kindly donated by Hilda Graham.


​Memories of Hilda Graham...

Remember When?
Lancashire, England late 1920's and early 1930's.  I remember when the depression hit us.  I was very young but still have vivid memories of those years.  I was born in Darwen, Lancashire at 2 Bury Fold Lane where we lived at the foot of the moors. 

Darwen was a cotton town that had several weaving mills where most of the population worked as weavers.  This was the main industry of Lancashire and Yorkshire was where the woolen fabrics were produced.  We had lots of cobble stone streets and I always remember as our neighbors went to work early in the morning.  We could tell by the sound of the clogs hitting the cobble stones who was walking by as each person seemed to have a distinctive gait.  I remember many mornings hearing my father say to my mother "Come on luv, we're going to be late.  I just heard Tom and Mary going by - it is almost 6 AM".  My mother and father worked in the same mill leaving my brother who is 18 months older than I supposedly asleep.  About 7:30 AM our parents came home and prepared breakfast and got us off to school; they were allowed 45 minutes to do this.  Most of the people worked in the mills and had to get their children off to school also.

I was three years old when I started school, as were many others.  It was sort of a community thing as most husbands and wives both had to work, no such thing as nurseries or day care back then.

What I really want to do is play a game of remember for those of you - I'm sure not too many - because this is a long time ago.

Lets start with clogs.  If you ever wore a pair you would not forget, they had wooden soles with metal shods, looked sort of like a horse shoe (only for the human foot) all around the sole toe to heel, and heavy leather uppers.  We never wore them out, just out grew them.  Just thinking about them makes my feet hurt.  I wasn't very big and the clogs were almost as heavy as I was - <GRIN>.   I remember the boys running and striking them on the flagstones, which created a spark, each boy trying to make the most sparks.
I remember pea soup, seems like that was one of our main dishes back then (oh how I hated it and still do).  I loved Lancashire hot pot if we were lucky enough to get the meat along with the vegetables to make it.  How many remember pobbies - broken bread with warm milk and sugar poured over it, chip butties, hope this is spelled correctly, sugar and butter butties or Lyles golden syrup and lets not forget the treacle.  I ate many of these delicacies.  I loved rice pudding and Yorkshire pudding and also black pudding until my cousin told me what was in the black pudding.  That did it for me.  They still make black pudding.
I remember when I was about 6 years of age; an older neighbor of ours Mrs. Clegg would send me to the pub with a stoneware jug to get 2 pints of stout.  When I took it to her she would stick the poker in the fire and then put the hot poker into the spout, saying she was anemic and needed iron for her blood, ha.  I remember that she was a good cook, as was my father who was famous in our neighborhood for baking windberry pies and barm cakes.  I can almost smell those barm cakes coming out of the oven.  We would split them open and cover them with fresh country butter; oh my mouth is watering.  My father would send some to Mrs. Clegg and she in return would send me home with freshly baked currant cake; their baking time was after church on Sunday. Oh, what great memories.
I remember that my mother would leave a list at Brooks Store on Bolton Road, which was not far from our home.  One day I remember her sending me to get some spare ribs she had ordered from the grocery store.  I did not realize how funny it sounded as there were several customers in the store and I walked up to Mr. Brooks and said "Do you have my mother's spare ribs".  I wondered at the time why everyone laughed.

I remember when my father needed money from the bank; he always had a little saved.  He would write a note stating how much he wanted to withdraw, that note was as good as any cheque as I always got the money.  My father would deduct the amount from his savings book, which he kept in a kitchen drawer.

After school I used to walk to the mill and go in to wait for my parents.  My father took care of 6 looms and my mother 4 looms.  All the workers called me Little Joe because I looked so much like my father ( he wasn't so bad looking).  I remember something they called shuttles, which were dangerous, and the workers had to be careful walking between them not to get hit.  I was so small that I walked right under them.  As I entered the mill everyone knew me and they let my parents, who worked towards the back of the mill, know I was coming.  They used (something) called weavers' talk because it was so noisy in the mill - they used some kind of a sign language.

I remember the last few days just before the mills closed coming out to the street, and other workers from closed mills were gathered; they were throwing stones and trying to intimidate the workers who were still working.  Something else which made a big impression on me were the mounted police and their big horses trying to quell the riot.
Oh, there is so much more to remember, climbing Darwen Tower, playing on the moors, walks in the woods, going to the pictures on Friday night - it cost a penny, eating hot potatoes from the street vendor, and then my father carrying me home on his shoulders.
Now I have written more than I intended, but thank God I can still remember, and I hope some of you who may read this will think back and remember those days long, long ago.  They weren't so bad were they?

By Hilda Graham, February 18, 2002

I remember a story my mother told me about when she was young. The carnival came to Darwen once a year (in England we called them fairs). My mother and her older sister were sent to the store to buy some vegetables for a stew. Back in those days they did not have grocery sacks so almost everyone had a basket to carry their groceries. They were supposed to buy potatoes, onions, carrots etc. She gave them six pence which then would have easily been enough money to purchase  the vegetables and have a little change left which she said they could spend on candy. They had threepence left over. As they walked to the village they noticed the fair was in town so instead of buying candy they decided to go on one of the rides at the fair which they knew their mother would not approve of as they were not allowed to go without adult supervision.
The rides cost a penny apiece and the one they chose I do not know the name of but will try to describe. It was kind of a large swing all closed in like a cage with seats all around and held twelve riders. This cage swung to and fro going higher and higher until it went completely over the top. Now as you know my mother and sister had a basket full of vegetables which they carried on the ride with them, no one thought of the consequences because when the swing went completely over the top all the vegetables spilled out of the basket hitting the other riders in the cage.
Believe some had black eyes from the vegetable barrage. When the swing stopped they were in big trouble with the owners and others on the swing, they were scared to death but finally managed to gather up the vegetables. Most of the riders thought it was funny and forgave them and needless to say they made their way home vowing never to do any thing like that again.
Every time I see a carnival I always remember this story and think of my mother and aunt. What a fond memory!!!

I remember bonfire night so well, it was always such an exciting time for both young and old. We would start about 2 weeks ahead of time collecting old newspaper wood you name it anything that would burn, We would then store it until the big night.
We used to hold our bonfire at the top of Bury Fold Lane. There also was a lane that led up to a farm, and a large house more of a mansion.  Then almost onto the moors, the lane had a brick wall on both sides and we built the bonfire in the middle of the lane.

Now we always had a problem with the Ashley St. boys, Ashley St. was the next street to Bury fold lane. Their young lads had a bad habit of stealing our materials for their fire, of course our young lads would not do such a thing ha. Anyway our lads would take turns guarding the hoards of wood etc. as did the Ashley St. lads.

The boys would find ways of sneaking out of their homes at night and would stay out doing their guard duty until about 10 PM. At the back of the house where we lived was a small area it was wooded, this land belonged to the people I believe who owned so much of the property.

We did not have a back door so my brother would climb out of the bedroom window and I believe there was a drain pipe which he held onto, my parents thought we were both in bed for the night but I knew what my brother was up to. One night when brother was going to do his duty I heard a commotion and looking out of the window I saw a policeman with his flashlight in one hand and my brother was being held by the other as they would say the scruff of the neck.

I knew they would have to go around to the front door, I heard a banging on the door and crept downstairs hiding behind the kitchen door so I could peep and see what happened. My father and mother were staring in disbelief at this spectacle.

The policeman said in a loud gruff voice this little lad says he lives here which my parents acknowledged that he did indeed live there but he was supposed to be in bed.
The policeman said well I caught this young fellow climbing on a pipe out in the back and I thought he was breaking in. My father then demanded of my brother just what he thought he was doing, my brother who was about 8 yrs old at the time was scared to death and tried to explain what he was up to.

The policeman looked at my dad and winked, then he told my brother if he ever caught him doing anything like this again it?s off to goal with you. My brother had been so afraid of what had happened, his punishment was a very stern lecture from my father and he promised no more of these escapades.

The main theme of bonfire night was to burn an effigy of Guy Fawkes and the children in the neighbourhood would go from door to door to collect pennies to buy fireworks for the big night. On the night everyone was so excited usually the men and older boys would take charge of lighting the fire and place the effigy on an old chair which someone may have donated for this occasion and would keep the fires burning. People both young and old would put potatoes on long pieces of wire or long forks and roast them in the fire, oh they always tasted so good.

The children would light their sparklers and the older ones would light the other fireworks, what a display they would make. How I would love to relive some of those good old days.

The reason Guy Fawkes was so hated was the fact that he and a small group of men had planned to blow up parliament with barrels of gunpowder placed under the buildings there was a tunnel which gave them access to the basement, King James 1st was due to meet with some of his leaders on the night of November 5th, in the year 1605.

Guy Fawkes was supposed to light the fuse but he was caught before he could light the fuse and was put in prison and tortured until he revealed the names of his comrades, He was hung in the year 1606.

By Hilda Graham  May 2002


T​he Bath Tub

I remember spending a weekend with my aunt, uncle and cousins, they had rented a home on Tockholes Road in Darwen. I do not know if it was a farmhouse or just a regular house which seemed to be in the country, I always enjoyed being with my cousins I was the youngest and they all spoiled me. We played all kind of games: Ludo, Snakes and Ladders, Snap, it is funny how I remember this but it was enjoyable. I remember it was cold so we could not play outside my aunt was a great cook and made all kinds of goodies: cream horns etc. Now the thing I remember most about the house is that when it came bedtime my aunt said it was time for my bath. Being younger I was the first to bathe and first to bed.

I wondered where I was going to get this bath as in so many houses back then there were no bathrooms, as we know them now. I still think of a roaring fire in the kitchen fireplace and a large black metal kettle not the kind you used for making tea but they did heat water in it, and from the way my uncle lifted it off a big hook which held the kettle or urn it must have been very heavy.

I was still wondering about my bath, my aunt got my nightgown out of my case, then she went over and removed a hooked rug in front of the fireplace and there was a ring or something similar. She pulled on this and the floor in front of the fireplace was on hinges there. Lo and behold in front of this nice hot fire and below floor level a metal bath tub, it had been concealed with the rug I must admit I had never seen one like it before or since. Soon my uncle removed the kettle and poured the hot water into the tub and my aunt added cold water until the temperature was just right, in the meantime my uncle was refilling the kettle and hung it back on the hook to heat more water.

Now I must admit I was a little leery about getting into that tub as to me being a small child it looked so big, I was finally persuaded that I was not about to be drowned and reluctantly got into the bath with a little help from my aunt. I must admit it was fun so nice and warm from that fire I was enjoying it. Too soon I was lifted out and wrapped in a warm towel and into my gown, Then my cousin, a girl by the way took her turn in this bath, she wasn't in it too long and both she and I were off to bed, I still had two more cousins there but they were boys and though I cannot swear to it I think a little more hot water was added to the bath and they bathed together. I am still not sure how that water was drained out of this tub whether it had some kind of drain or had to be emptied by out by using a large jug or something similar. I often wonder if that house is still there,
I was so surprised when I first visited my friend in Darwen for they had built a large house on Tockholes Road and the Darwen Tower was so visible just behind this house. Their home must have taken a lot of engineering. It consisted of I believe three stories the main part of the house was built on level ground but it was on the side of a hill and part of the house seemed to be built into the hillside. I never thought I would see a house like this in Darwen. There were other beautiful homes built in the same area. I wish I could remember the address. I believe the daughter is still living there but my friend bought a smaller home in Darwen and also bought property in Spain where they spend a lot of time due to the milder climate. They tell us that quite a few people from Darwen also bought property in Spain and they all get together and enjoy being there.
by Hilda Graham