The Nostalgia column with Margaret Watson – Memories of Thornhill

Tea time: Memories of the days before new housing estates were built. Pictured are the Croft family enjoying tea outside their home in Overthorpe Road. John's mother, Mary, is pouring tea, his brother Michael and Auntie Ethel, stand beside her. Brother David is seated at the front while John is sitting beside his father Walter.
Tea time: Memories of the days before new housing estates were built. Pictured are the Croft family enjoying tea outside their home in Overthorpe Road. John's mother, Mary, is pouring tea, his brother Michael and Auntie Ethel, stand beside her. Brother David is seated at the front while John is sitting beside his father Walter.

The building of new housing estates in Dewsbury during the 1950s and 60s had a great impact on people living in the areas where new houses were being built.

John Croft was a young boy living in Thornhill at the time new estates were being built on his doorstep.

Margaret Watson.

Margaret Watson.

The following is his fascinating account of what life was like for him in Thornhill before the new estates were built:

“At the top of Lister Hill lived a greengrocer called Wilcox, who, every Friday set off with his horse and cart selling his wares. If his horse left a deposit anywhere near our house we had to go and collect it in a zinc bucket and tip it onto the compost heap.

“During the football season around six o clock you could hear the plaintive cry of “pink finaaal” or “green finaaal” as the paper boys (men) were hawking the Saturday sports paper from the Yorkshire Post or Telegraph and Argus.

“How they printed the reports and results so quickly still baffles me, but most results were in the ‘stop press’ column. You can imagine the paper’s phone lines being red hot during the afternoon. Check the pools. No good. Work another week.

“In winter, the pie and ham shank man came along the road on Saturday evening bellowing out his signature call. We were sometimes sent out with a dish to buy a shilling’s worth.

“On The Combs there was Plaschinsky’s shop which had all sorts of dried and cured meats hanging from the ceiling and there was also a post office counter, from which I collected the family allowance.

“Dyson’s confectioners was near The Cross, where we bought our sweets – black jacks, four for 1d, flying saucers, gobstoppers, a stick of licorice root which you chewed until it looked like a paintbrush,

“Best of all was kayli in a cone shaped paper bag with a stick of spanish. If you couldn’t stretch to a spanish you used your finger which turned bright yellow.

“Every Friday we bought two glass quart bottles of Ben Shaw’s pop, dandelion and burdock and a lemonade being the regular choice. Each bottle cost 1/3d with the 3d being the bottle deposit.

“The bottles had a black screw stopper with an orange rubber seal, and the fizz lasted to the very last drop, unlike today’s plastic offerings.

“In later years the Crystal Spring pop wagon would visit the locality. It was cheaper and therefore popular, but it wasn’t as nice as Ben Shaw’s.

“The first shop on The Town was Slater’s barbers where we nearly always had a long wait because he used hand clippers and every adult who came in went in the chair before children.

“Eventually Dad invested in his own clippers, and so we had his version of short back and sides but no waiting.

“In my later years it was a trim and square neck at Brearley’s in Dewsbury which was up some stairs next to J & B’s. The finishing touch was to apply a good handful of Brylcreem to slick it back, not forgetting the Bill Haley kiss curl.

“Further along The Town was Wilcock’s butchers who slaughtered their own beasts, so when a bullock was due for dispatching we would call there on the way home from school.

“We would sit on the wall and watch the whole thing take place before heading off home. If mum bought a rabbit or we killed a hen, it had to be skinned or plucked.

“For most children of our era it was a fact of life.

“Next stop was Ingham’s TV, radio and bike shop.

“Puncture outfits, rubber brake blocks and wheel hub ball bearings would all be bought there.

“Even at 10 years old you were expected to do your own bike maintenance, and even make your own trolleys from old pram wheels.

“Opposite Ingham’s, stood Heyling’s grocery and confectionery shop, and then further along was the Middlestown Cooperative self service store.

“When I was aged nine my mum gave birth to my brother and so I had to do more household chores, one of which was going to this shop every Friday before school to collect some groceries.

“I’d push (run with) an old pram to carry the goods in, and butter, sugar, tea, lard and soap were always the first items on the weekly list, which I had to write out.

“The shop opened at 8 o’ clock and I’d be stood on the doorstep reciting the dividend (divi) number 8851, over and over.

For each pound spent at the Co-op, 3d would be paid out at Christmas, which I’m sure came in very handy.

“Opposite the Scarborough Hotel pub was the fish shop which is still there, and going for fish and chips for supper was always something to look forward to.

“There were a few other shops in Thornhill but the ones named above were the main ones our family used.”

“The population of Thornhill grew rapidly after the war and several council estates were built in quick succession bringing with them many shops and three doctor’s surgeries.

“Castle Crescent Estate was the first to be built followed by Edge Avenue, then the Valley Road Estate, and the Mountain Road Estate, and finally Foxroyd Estate.

“The drainage pipes for the Mountain estate were installed right through the middle of our back garden

“Dad was furious but there was little he could do as the house and land were owned by, and rented from, Lord Saville.”