Street full of shops was a gateway to the town
Daisy Hill is not the place it used to be. There was a time when it was the gateway to Dewsbury – the busiest thoroughfare in the town.
Only the other week local bookmaker George Carrigill reminisced about Nelson Street and Wellington Street, two small side streets branching off from Daisy Hill.
These too were lined with shops and were a busy shopping centre in their own right, serving vibrant nearby communities like Flatts, Eightlands and Westtown.
This week I received a photograph of an old sadler’s shop at the top of Daisy Hill taken in the days when most goods were transported locally by horse and cart.
There will be few in Dewsbury who will remember this little shop, one of many which existed on either side of Daisy Hill.
They are all now long gone and I think you’d be hard pressed to find even one shop left in this part of Dewsbury today. How times change.
I remember as a young reporter in the 1950s travelling up and down Daisy Hill umpteen times a day on my way to and from the Reporter office to Dewsbury bus station.
All along my route there was nothing but shops on both sides. It was often so busy that pedestrians had to step into the road to get past the crowds.
I look back now and think that my grandmother in her youth walking down Daisy Hill would have seen a much different picture to the one I saw.
She would have seen the Paragon Hotel at the top of Daisy Hill, the Fryer’s Vaults pub at the bottom and in between scores of shops which my generation would never have known.
Going back further still, my great grandmother would have seen another kind of Daisy Hill in the days when there was a colliery at the top and a rubbish tip.
Going back further still, our ancestors traversing in that direction wouldn’t have seen a single shop or building.
It would have been all meadowland stretching down to the River Calder with cattle grazing peacefully in fields smothered in daisies. I’d like to think Daisy Hill took its name from this humble little flower.
Many readers of this column often confide in me that they’d happily go back to those times.
They long for the old days and would gladly go back to them, despite the hardships that went with them.
They tell me they are disillusioned with the present day and would feel happier and more content if they were living in a different time.
They think longingly of the old Dewsbury of which I write week after week and they want to return to them.
I must admit that sometimes so do I.
I receive many letters from people describing the “good old days”, usually from those who lived in close-knit communities.
The other week Ethel Atkinson, who used to live in Flatts, wrote to me in response to the article by George Carrigill in which he recalled the warm-hearted people who lived in such communities.
There are many who lived in Flatts when Ethel did (myself included) who still have warm memories of that area, and will identify with much of what she writes.
This is what Ethel writes about George Carrigill’s reminiscences of the Turks Head pub where he was born,and the surrounding neighbourhoods.
It was a lovely write-up about the Flatts. It was, as George said, a great place to line in. Folks always helped each other. We sat on our steps chatting when we’d got the kids to bed.
“I worked on the railway nearby and knew most of the food shops in Ashworth Road and Vulcan Road – now not one left.
“I had a boy in a wheelchair, Roy Atkinson, like another boy in Eastwood Yard, Tony Fox.
“We had no benefits or help. I hadn’t for my boy who died at 14. Not a penny and no help.
“Our kids learnt respect and the dos and don’ts. We had values. It was a better world.
“We had no washers or freezers, no electric, no luxuries and no TVs. We had a radio run off wet batteries which we got from Wainwright’s in Ossett.
“My hubby, Raymond, passed away in July aged 96. He used to grow all our vegetables and flowers at the allotments in Moorlands Road.
“I could listen and talk about the Flatts forever. Bobby Kelt lived in the first house at the back of Cross’s butchers.
“We used to walk our children to Carlton Road School. Today there are too many cars – don’t know legs are for walking.
“I also used to walk up to the Open Air school in Moorlands Road pushing my son’s wheelchair.
“Me and my husband both had to work to make ends meet. How lucky they are today, but there is lack of respect.
“We used to wash our clothes with the old tub and posser, nappies as well. No disposable nappies then.
“After leaving the railway through illness, I worked for Whitworth and Pickles newsagents and then John Menzies in Springfield. Also George Hellawell’s printers for 22 years. It was a hard life in our day, but so much happier. I brought up six kids and I’d still do it all again. I’ve loved my life!”
In her letter Ethel asked me to clear up a mystery regarding which street the Howgate family, of which I wrote some time ago, lived on in Flatts.
I said they’d lived next door to our family in Woodbine Strteet, but Ethel remembers the time when they lived opposite her in the next street, South Woodbine Street.
She wrote: “I lived at 15 South Woodbine Street and Norman Howgate and his wife Miriam, two girls, Sally and Mary, and their son Frank, lived straight across from me, next to Hetty and Bill Longbottom.”
So which street did they live on? Well both Ethel and I are right. They lived at different times in both streets.
The Howgates must have moved to our street in the 1950s, and perhaps they moved because it was a bigger house.
The houses we lived in were what were called “through” houses, unlike those in South Woodbine Street, which were back-to-back.
I am indebted to Bill Day, of East Ardsley, for sending me the photograph taken in Daisy Hill.
Bill doesn’t come from Dewsbury, but went to the Dewsbury Art College from 1949 to 1951 and has memories of the town at that time.
The photograph only came to light recently after his wife’s aunt died, but he thought it might be of interest for my nostalgia column.
Bill writes: “When I went to school In Dewsbury in 1950 sweets were still rationed, so my pal Trevor and I used to call on our way to the bus to a shop at the bottom of the arcade and buy what I think were called fig bars.
“They were a flat bar with rice paper top and bottom. These were not rationed, can any reader remember them?
“At the time mouth organs were the craze, and these we bought from Auty’s shop in the same arcade. Also at the time a new haircut arrived from America called the bop cut. We went to Brearley and McDermotts for this.
“It was a crew cut on top with the DA at the back. My father went mad. He thought I was becoming a delinquent.”