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Remembering Ridgeway

by

Win Dewsbury, formerly Winifred Mary Spooner, daughter of Lucy and George Spooner.

 

9, Main Road, where I lived for the first six years of my life, was the second in a row of terraced cottages next to Marsh's Farm. Just below us lived Betty and Roy Hutchinson - Betty was the daughter of Mr Taylor, the church warden, who lived next to the church.  Just above us in the row were Maggie and Jack Nicholson, who kept pigs. They had a pig-bin outside the house, where we all put vegetable peelings and used tea-leaves ready to be made into swill. I used to use a wooden rolling pin to crush block salt into a powder, to be used for salting the meat after killing a pig. I didn't get paid for this, but I did it because I liked Maggie Nicholson.

I think that there were about six cottages in that row; the top one next to the street had a square bay window, and I seem to think it was used a shop at some time - newspapers comes to mind. Our house was just three rooms, each one on top of the other. The ground floor had a pot sink with one tap (cold) a fire grate, one gas ring and gas mantle lighting. The two upstairs rooms had nothing but a window; we children slept in one and my mother and father slept in the other. We used a candle for light until we were in bed, then made do with the glow from David Marsh's lantern as he went about his farm business next door. We did, however, have a small amount of garden across the yard and a flushing water toilet next to it. We had a rabbit hutch on the garden, together with three or four large Belgian rabbits. Every so often, in winter, one of these rabbits would "escape", never to be seen again, but we would have a tasty "chicken" stew, and, come Christmas, some warm fur mittens!

You must bear in mind that when I lived in the cottage, it was war time and shortly after (from 1942 until 1948) and so housing conditions were very bleak and money was short. My father used to climb trees in the churchyard and collect wood pigeons from their nests for the pot - very tasty they were, too. My brother and sister and I collected thistle-down for my mother to use as filling for cushions and pillows. During the bad winter of 1947, my father carried me so far to school and the remainder of the way, I walked along the wall. I caught measles in 1946 and it left me with problems in my left eye, but as there was no NHS until 1948, it was not treated. Some years later, I wore glasses with a sticky elastoplast cover over my good eye, but the only result was that I could not see where I was going, or the blackboard, or anything. So I just stopped wearing my glasses!

David Marsh had dairy cows and also grew grain. He used carthorses to pull his plough, but I can't remember what the grain was. I only know that, come harvest, we would help with hay-making and the hired threshing machine would be operating day and night until it was all threshed. It was a lovely sound, and I am taken back to those days whenever I go to a steam fair.

I was often sent to get a jug of milk from the farm. Mrs Marsh would answer the door, proceed to the dairy and there put on her dairy cap. I had to remain outside whilst she filled up my jug before handing it to me. I fetched milk in a jug from Mrs Marsh until the time when all milk had to be treated, whatever year that was. Mrs Marsh gave me my first job, when I was 3 years old. Don't forget that I lived next door to the farm and was always interested in what was going on there. Mrs Marsh did not like chickens, so she paid me a 1d a day to go around with her, pick-up the sitting hens and hold them so she could collect the eggs. When I was four years old, her younger son, David, gave me my second job, taking the cows down to pasture next to Lawn Lane, or up to pasture at the Long Meadow (next to the playing fields). Their dog came with me, I was provided with a stick, and I was paid 1d in the morning and 1d to bring them back. It was a number of years before I realised that the dog did the work---I was just there to open and close the gates!! Nb. In those days, farmers' gates were hung properly, and so even a small child could open and close them.

When I took my pennies earned across to the Post Office Savings Bank, I always did it on a Tuesday morning. That was the bread delivery day, and both Jack Bolsover the Post Master and Mr Baker would give me 2d if I sang them a song, which of course I did. Usually I chose "With a song in my heart" which was their favourite, from "Forces Choice" on the radio. I put all my money in the bank, but I have no recollection what I was saving for.

In 1948, we moved up to "the New House", at 15, Wellfield Close on the Estate. The house had three bedrooms, a bathroom, landing, stairs and hall, a kitchen, a living room and a tiny "best room"--what previously had been called a parlour, but was much smaller. Outside was a coal shed, outside toilet and a wash-house. There was a garden at the back, the front and at the side. It was a palace to what we were used to.

Our first neighbours were Len Richardson on one side and Mr. & Mrs. Pearson,  parents of Mark Pearson, on the other. Betty Hutchinson and family came to live there a few years later.

David Marsh brought his horse and cart round (every day?) with fresh milk from the farm cows, in churns. Customers would provide jugs and he would tip the milk (that he carefully measured) into them. We would then put our milk onto the marble slab in the pantry. The coalman also came round once a month and tipped whatever coal we paid for onto the pavement; we had to shovel it into buckets and then carry it up to the back of the house and tip it into the coal-house. Our pile of coal always looked tiny when compared to the one ton of coal delivered every month to the local miners.

I started school at the county primary school sometime during the summer of 1946. I remember Mr. Wright, the head-master, being a very caring man, and Miss Drury, and another, younger, lady teacher, who took us for nature walks, gave us a nature table and taught us, the girls, how to wash and repair the school's football kit. She was so nice that I never let on that my mother had already shown me how to do these things. I loved my time there, apart from encountering the disciplinarian Mr. Auger, who was always too ready to cane us across the palms and fingers - always 5 or 10 strokes across each hand and always for paltry reasons. I swore to myself that, when I was older and bigger, I would get my own back on him. However, he was quite tall, I was the smallest child in the school, and I never grew above 4ft 11ins, so I never did get my own back on him!

Pat Pearson was a very attractive young woman who lived on Wren Park Close. She was a beautiful pianist and sometimes played the "Moonlight Sonata" by Beethoven at youth club. She was the attraction for my brother Jim's and Leonard Richardson's appearance at certain committee meetings!

As souvenirs of the Coronation in 1953, all of us schoolchildren were given a half-pint glass mug and a propelling pencil with a crown on the end. I didn't know the nostalgia value of them at the time, and have no idea what happened to them.

The vicar, Mr Sketchley, allowed the villagers to perform a pageant in church, to celebrate The Queen's coronation. I had the boring part of standing up and saying "I carry the Ampulla containing the oil, with which the Queen, as she sits in St. Edward's chair, is anointed on her head, her hands and her breast. The oil is a symbol of God's love." I remember June Higginbottom floating down the aisle as an angel, and how wonderful she looked.

All the school-children (we were not very many, as it was a small school) were invited to watch The Coronation on Mr Wright's television at the schoolhouse. We all sat on the floor, and watched what most of us didn't understand and couldn't really see, on a small square screen, roughly 6ins x 6ins, and were most impressed because we were in Mr. Wright's house.

At school, once a month, we had a coach to take us to the swimming baths, first at Cresswell and later, at Ringwood. I disliked it, as I was very frightened of the water, so on swimming days I always "forgot" my kit, and spent the lesson watching, until one day I was told by the (male) instructor that next time, I must take the lesson in my vest and knickers. After that, I always hid until after the coach had gone. I don't remember ever being punished for this.

The school had a choir, with Mr Auger as choir-master, to which I belonged. Every week we listened to "Singing Together" on the radio for schools programme, and we learned many good songs there. (There is a website available for Singing Together.) As a choir, we took part in inter-school contests. I remember that we once went to a Hall at Belle View, Manchester. I don't remember if we ever won!

My parents sometimes took us to a zoo at Belle View; I think we went on the train. We often went to Wyming Brook, Redmires; to get there, we walked to either Gleadless Town End or Manor Top (I can't remember which,) then caught the Outer Circular Bus. We also spent many happy hours down at Ford, fishing for sticklebacks and bullheads. We walked down, but got the bus back, and while we waited at the bus stop, my father would "dig deep" in his pocket and buy us a cornet of Oates Ices, no longer available, but the most wonderful creamy yellow-coloured ice cream in the world at the time.

In 1949, we had been in our new house for some months. The building work was ongoing, and there was builder's rubble and equipment left all over. We children made a see-saw out of a long plank and a saw-horse. One day, I fell off and landed on some broken glass, cutting my left wrist very badly. My father pressed on the wound with his thumb and someone ran to fetch Bobby Brothwell's dad, who was an ambulance man. He put on a tourniquet and took us in his car to Dr Darling's surgery, at the top of Fox Lane, Frecheville. The doctor put a dressing on and sent me to The Royal Hospital, where they put two stitches in my wrist. I had cut an artery and nicked a tendon, and to this day, I have very little use from two of my fingers. Thank goodness for The NHS. Dr. Darling also had a surgery in the village, beside the Post Office, set back from the road. This house, known as Ridgeway House, was Miss Broomhead's School for Girls in the 1840s.

Lucy Walker, who kept the shop opposite the school had a black mongrel dog called Sweep. I used to take him out, and spent many happy hours walking miles and exploring the countryside. Sweep was an excellent companion for a girl.

Every Whit Monday there were games in the playing field; egg and spoon, sack race, slow bicycle race, bean-bag race, all the old-fashioned games which we all loved. We also celebrated the Coronation with games.

We had a local policeman, Rick Higson, who lived on Charnock Hall Road with his wife Brenda and his two little girls, one of whom was called Andrea. I used to baby sit for him on occasions. He travelled by bicycle to walk his rather large beat, and he was very well liked.

At school, when I was about six, I remember a particular day when, in the art class, we were given instructions to paint a picture of our favourite holiday destination. I had never been on holiday, so I had no idea what to paint. I was wearing a pale green broderie-anglaise dress, so I decided that I would leave the paper blank and instead paint some of the flowers on my dress. It looked lovely, with red, blue, orange, green, and purple flowers. The lady teacher Miss Linley(?) was not amused, and sent me to see the Headmaster, Mr. Wright. It was an awful feeling, standing outside his office, waiting to tell him what I had done! However, when I confessed to Mr. Wright he laughed out loud, said my dress was very pretty and to tell my mother when I got home that the paint was water-based and would wash out. He said to tell the teacher that he had said I was a naughty girl. He was a lovely understanding Head Master.

Sometime in the late 40's or early 50's, the moorland behind Wren Park - known as Gin Banks and covered in gorse bushes - caught on fire. It was all tinder dry, and so burnt for a long time. The fire brigade came (from where, I don't remember) but could only stop it from spreading further. Every local boy and young man who had an air gun rushed to the scene and shot rabbits galore as the poor animals tried to escape from the fire. I think most village families had rabbit for dinner for quite a few days!

I also remember a house fire in about 1952, at the Trewick's house, just opposite to ours on Wellfield Close, on the estate. It was started by a plumber's blow lamp and I remember the fire engine attending. My mother wouldn't let us watch from the road; she made us come in and watch from a bedroom window instead, so we got an exciting grandstand view.

Mrs. Renwick and her son lived on Lawn Lane, and she used to hold Girl Guide Jamborees on her grounds. Some time later, she became Lady Renwick and also Chief Guide, but strangely I don't remember there being a guide troop in the village.

Charlie Rippon was an old man who lived in a little cottage on Main Road, just below Mrs. Prichard's shop. He spent most of his time sitting on a stool outside his front door, with his huge black Labrador by his side. He also had an orchard, close to the headmaster's house, which he kept padlocked. In his orchard, he grew apples, pears, plums, cherries and probably other fruits as well. We (the village children - not many of us at that time) found a way through the hedge to get in and scrump some of the fruit, usually an apple or pear each. We would the leave the orchard at a run, through the back hedge into one of David Marsh's fields, and up the hill to the Hay Ricks to eat our booty.

When I was about nine years old, in 1951, some Evangelical Christians came to the village. They camped on the playing fields and set up trestle tables, which they covered with tracts, and set about converting the children. We thought it was wonderful; all the songs they taught us were religious and most of them rousing. Two of them went:-


"I don't want to march in the infantry, ride in the cavalry, shoot in the artillery,

I don't want to fly o'er the enemy,

I'm in The Lord's Army."

 

"J O Y, J O Y, surely that must mean,

Jesus first, Yourself last, Others in-between."

 

They attracted the local children to their show every day, and then, one day, without any warning, they were gone. My brother Jim said that they had been "warned off," and helped on their way the night before by a few of the local men.

Mrs Kay was the licensee of the Phoenix Public House. She was a small old lady and a friend of my parents. I remember, when I was pre-school age, my father used to take me with him to visit her. We used to go to the kitchen door - the conservatory had not been built - and sit beside her big coal fire. The bar was in the same room, and she served beer from a barrel, which she tapped into a jug. When she died, her daughter took over as licensee and extended the pub, to get drinkers out of her kitchen. The car park there used to be just a small square in front of the pub.

Sometime in the mid 1950's, a local farmer called Fidler won the treble chance on the football pools - something like 47,000. His wife was called Zena, and so he built a ballroom on one of his fields, ie Fidler's Field, at Charnock, and named it The Azena Dance Hall. It was a big success for many years, until ballroom dancing went out of fashion. It is now, sadly, a supermarket.

Once a year, when Jack Nicholson's pig was big enough, he used to call the slaughter-man in. This was always a well-attended occurrence and took place in the pen just at the side of the war memorial ground - now Kent House. We youngsters would climb on the fence to get a good view. The pig would be stunned, and then killed by having its throat cut. It was then strung up by its back legs, and the blood was collected to make black pudding. The bristles were scraped off its skin, and then it was butchered into useful cuts. It was said that the only thing of no value on a pig was its grunt!

In 1953, after passing the 11+, I went to Eckington Grammar School. The school bus, either Booth & Fisher or Grant & Macallam, picked us up in the mornings outside the Coop, at the junction of High Lane and Main Road.

One of my best friends was David Rogers, from High Lane. One day, someone found some pieces of copper tubing on the farm at Ford and took them to school, where David was given one to use as a whistle. At home that night, when the family were round the table having tea, it exploded in his hand, and he lost three fingers. It turned out that the copper pipe was actually a detonator. I used to help him with his paper-round. When I was 13, I got my first ever kiss from him. Happy Days.

Sometimes on Sunday evenings in summer, after church, the members of the youth club would walk across the fields and footpaths to The Gate Inn at Troway. I don't ever remember going in for a drink - most of us were under-age - but we all enjoyed the walk there and back.

I remember a lot of people, but not a lot of details about them. They include:

Terry Beck; Ann and Tommy Hawley; Valerie Pearson, a hairdresser; Byron Pearson; Eileen and Mary Bingham; Rosalind Hobbs, who had two names - when she was with one parent, she was Bunty Pleasance; Mark Pearson and Johnnie Satterly, who were both professional footballers - two footballers in one generation from one small village must have been a record; Colin Lyon, who had a beautiful singing voice; Eric Cooke, who taught me how to jump out of a hay loft and land in a pile of hay without hurting myself; Dereck Wittaker, who lived at the top of Marshes' farm; Mrs Slattery, who lived at Martins, High Lane, and who I worked for, for a number of years.

We ate our school dinners in what we always called The Memorial Hall - so named, I believe, because the War Memorial was in the front garden - but was actually called Kent House. We all sat upstairs, on four benches, at two long tables. I don't remember much about the actual meals, except that the liver was always beasts' and was powdery, the mince was floating in water and we all called sago pudding "frogspawn". I do remember that, one day, I couldn't eat my dinner for some reason, so I was made to stand on my bench seat until I did eat it. I was still there at home-time when I was finally missed in the class-room. I never did eat that meal. The war memorial was moved from Kent House to its present position beside the playing fields, I understand some 30 years ago, when the building was sold and became a des res.

November 11th was always a moving time in Ridgeway, in the 40's/50's. At 11:00am on the 11th day of the 11th month, everything would stop - and I mean everything. Buses and cars would stop where they were, shops would cease selling and pedestrians would stop to pay their respects to The Fallen with the two minutes silence. I think the church bells told us when to begin. It was quite usual to see cars parked on High Lane and Main Road, and to hear the Sound Of Silence throughout the village on Armistice Day.

 

Other memories

Miss Drury, who lived below the church, played the organ at the Methodist Chapel and taught a few school children at the Chapel school room. She was small and stooped and appeared to be about 100 years old to us children.

Mrs Clarke, who lived on Church Lane, always invited me and my sister to visit on Christmas Day and she would give us a lovely Peg Doll, each one beautifully dressed.

In later years, Mr Clarke tended my fathers' grave for my mother.

 

Please note that this article is an ongoing project and further additions are anticipated in the future.

 

Editor's Comment: Another source tells us that this was Arnie Fiddler, who may or may not be a relative of the Fidler Family.

 

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