Betty Quinton’s Memories of Kiveton and Wales from the 1930s/40s
This morning as I watched the news on TV, memories flooded back of hours spent on Wooden Bridge (the railway bridge just past the High School) as a child, watching the trains go by. We often saw the flying Scotsman engine on its way to London and today after much restoration it left London once again on its way to York.
Then I reflected on how children’s lives have changed since then. I was born in the early 1930s and grew up on Storth Lane which was part of the first council estate to be built in Kiveton. It included Chestnut and Limetree Avenues, Maple Road and some houses on Wales Road and Storth Lane. From the recreation ground on Wales Road to Wales Square there were no houses at all, just fields. Storth Lane was the same, with council houses only part way up on the left of the lane, and just fields on the other side. The Meadows School and the High School did not exist, only fields all the way to Todwick. The farmer at that time was called Albert Archer and he had a very large manure heap where the high school now stands.
The fields and meadows were our playground. Just past Wooden Bridge, over a style was the first meadow which had a dyke at the bottom of the field where we paddled, caught tiddlers and picnicked during the long summer holidays. This dyke then flowed under Wales Road and became the Recca dyke. It was so clean you could always catch tiddlers there. Now it is so badly polluted and full of rubbish that nothing could live there. Over the meadows to Todwick was the “up and down” field which had been ploughed and then left to grass, creating a wonderful undulating surface on which we rode our bikes.
Nobody had a car or TV, computer or Ipad, etc. and all the houses on this council estate had no electricity at all. All the men worked at the pit and got cheap coal, so homes were heated by a coal fire which also fuelled the oven for cooking. The streets were lit at night by gas lamps. As it got dark the gas lamp lighter came round with his long rod and pulled the chain which turned on the gas lamp.
Families had a radio which was fuelled by an accumulator. This had to be taken to Tomlinson’s shop every week to be charged. Mr Tomlinson would loan you one of his accumulators until you fetched yours back in a couple of days. This was usually the job of one of the children in the family.
We didn’t go away on holiday and the trip to Cleethorpes on the Sunday School outing was the only time most of us saw the sea. We went on the train from Kiveton Bridge Station and while the parents occupied the seats we would run up and down the corridors trying to win “first to see the sea” prize. When it became law that workers should have a yearly holiday, the pit would close for the week and the pit ponies were brought up to the surface. For one glorious week, the ponies occupied the field, grazing on the grass where the new sports facility has been built. We went down each day to take carrots for the ponies and to see them enjoying the outdoors, which sadly would last only a very short time.
The school you went to depended on where you lived in the village. There were two junior schools run by the West Riding of Yorkshire County Council. Wales school was much smaller than it is now. It was attended mostly by children from Wales Bar and Pidgeon Row, the latter being where the industrial estate is now. Some children from the council estate also went to Wales. There were no school dinnersprovided so you walked to school and back four times each day no matter what the weather was like, or how far the distance. Our parents didn’t have cars to pick us up. The motorway didn’t exist and the cricket field occupied the site where the Cherry Tree estate is now, so the children from Wales Bar and Waleswood just passed fields on their way to school. I walked with my friends to Wales School. On the way each day we passed the blacksmith’s shop on the corner of Storth Lane and Manor Road. Mr Frost was the blacksmith and sometimes he would let us pump the bellows for him as he was shoeing horses. There were just a few very old cottages as we joined Manor Road, then fields until you got to the rectory. If you turned right at the smithy, it was the same, a few very old cottages then fields until you reached the manor house.
Kiveton School was next to Kiveton Bridge Station and id now used as a youth centre. The majority of children at Kiveton School lived on Park Terrace, the Little Rows, Carrington and Dawson Terraces; houses that had been built by the colliery company for their workers. Some children from the central council estate, Wales Road and Station Road also went to Kiveton School.
On reaching ‘Standard 5’, you then went to Dinnington Modern School if you hadn’t passed the exam for Woodhouse Grammar or Dinnington Technical College.
All the children in the village made good use of the recreation ground from Monday to Saturday especially in the summer. However, Sunday was very different. We weren’t allowed there on Sundays. The caretaker chained and padlocked all the swings together on a Saturday evening. The jazz plank and the roundabout were also immobilised and the slide had a gate put on the steps and a long plank fastened to the slide itself. Sundays were for going to church and Sunday school in the afternoon. One Sunday in May every year, we did the Church walks and singing. We would congregate at Joey Lee’s, which was the shop at Hard Lane corner. Then we would walk all the way to Wales Church, stopping at various places to sing a hymn. In the afternoon, we made our way to the Mission at Waleswood (where the industrial estate is now) then as in the morning we would have various stops to sing a hymn on our way to church. Evening service included mums and dads, and the singing of the same hymns in church.
On Saturday mornings the cinema (where the Forge pub now stands) was the big attraction for the 2d [pence] rush. You paid 2d to sit near the front but if you had a bit of pocket money you could sit in the posh seats at the back for 4d. It was always well attended whether it was a cowboy or a cartoon. The films at the cinema changed three times a week so it was usually one of those that were shown.
There was a great variety of shops in the village and you could buy almost anything, from hardware at Powis’, ladies and gents shoes and clothes at Emmerson’s, greengrocery at Hydes, radios and batteries at Tomlinson’s, get your bike repaired at Bamfits and Garforths, or have a suit made at Bagshaws. The Co-op had a food shop at the bottom of Wesley Road and there was even an abattoir at the back of Bernard Smith’s butchers (where the bridal shop is today). Several of the shop keepers also toured the village with their wares either with a horse and cart or a van of some kind. Our milk came straight from the farm. Low Laithes farm was owned at that time by a family called Atkin. Ron, the son, brought our milk every day on his milk float, pulled by one of the farm’s horses. My mum would send me out with a basin or jug and Ron would measure a pint of milk from his milk churn and pour it into my basin. Mr Hydes, the greengrocer, also had a horse and cart and he came around three times a week to sell Fruit and vegetables. Mr Tomlinson had a small van and he came round selling batteries etc. Bread was delivered three times a week by Mr Higgs in the Co-op van.
There wasn’t a bank in the village at all, but on Friday evenings from 6pm to 7pm, the Yorkshire Penny Bank from Worksop branch set up a bank counter in Kiveton School, next to the railway bridge. Two men, one of them was Mr George Blackwell, sat at this counter acting as cashiers on behalf of the bank. You had a little bank book where all transactions were written down. You could pay money onto your account or draw out small sums but if you needed to draw a larger amount, you had to notify the Yorkshire Penny Bank in Worksop beforehand so the men could bring that amount for you on the night. I don’t think they had many customers as the miners’ wages were poor and very few had money to save.
However, the community spirit at the time was very different. The population of Kiveton and Wales was much smaller than today and almost all the men worked together at the pit. They looked out for one another in their home life as they did at work. The younger men would always clear the paths of snow for older neighbours in the winter and check that they were alright for food. You knew everyone who lived on your road and you would enjoy happy times together, as this photo shows. Taken in 1933, it shows families from Storth Lane at Woodall Ponds, to where they had walked to enjoy a picnic together.
Sadly Kiveton and Wales no longer enjoy a summer carnival. Some people will remember the carnivals of the 1970s which are also becoming a distant memory, but going back to the 1930s carnivals were a spectacular affair as this photo shows. Taken in 1936, it shows the procession passing the chemists on Wales Road. On the cart are Jack Stocks, Steve Thorpe, Bill Blackwell and Bill Thorpe representing the Health and Strength League entry in the Hospital Carnival. Flags flew from every house and from one side of the road to the other. Decorated carts were pulled by horses and although there were only a few vans in Kiveton at that time, they all joined in.
Although the miners’ wages were poor, their wives very rarely went out to work at this time. Their role was that of mother and someone to care for the home. In most homes there were routines that the housewives followed, for instance, Monday was always washday, with all that it involved - not just loading the machine and pressing a button! The council houses had a brick built structure in the corner of the kitchen containing a large iron copper. It had room for a fire to be made underneath and then the copper was filled with water. This provided the boiling water for washday. Most homes had a mangle with big wooden rollers to squeeze water out of the clothes, which still finished up quite wet. On rainy washdays, this meant that the house was full of steam as the housewives tried to dry the washing around the open coal fire. By Tuesday there was a lot of ironing to be done, with irons which were also heated on the coal fire. Wednesday was known as “upstairs” day, when bedrooms were cleaned and polished. The council houses all had a Yorkshire Range which was black-leaded and the flues cleaned out every Thursday. Friday was for polishing downstairs and baking day. Children coming home from school on Friday afternoons would be met by a welcoming smell of newly baked bread, scones and teacakes. All the washing had been done, ironed, aired and put away, and everything was clean and bright for the weekend. On the Monday everything would start all over again.
Betty Quinton (nee Blackwell) February 2016