HMHS Rohilla
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Lancashire Textile Project

TAPE 82 / HD / 01

Harold Duxbury

You might ask why I have chosen to reproduce taped interview transcripts here and / or what their connection is to the SS Rohilla. Ken Wilson's book is accepted as being the first full account of the hospital vessel's loss. At the start of the book there is but a brief mention of a man named Harold Duxbury and it tweaked my interest, I yearned to know more.

A simple search of Harold's name at the OneGuyFromBarlick website threw up 133 search results, I looked at a few of the results and found that the Lancashire Textile Project was the best avenue of research and so chose that as my main area of focus. The textile project included a very lengthy interview conducted with Harold Duxbury, and whilst it is obviously related to the textile project, there is no denying that it gives an insight to who Harold was and how his life was shaped by his experiences, if you visit the website you can download the full project.

The interview transcripts do not as such give any insight to the loss of the Rohilla or how it affected the cotton mill town of Barnoldswick. That said however, I am pleased to be able to feature the interview here broken down into the same six pages as it is on the aforementioned website. It is interfaced with the time taken during the interview to give some idea of how in depth the interviews were, whilst the "R- " refers to Harold's reply to a specific question.

Session One

This Tape Has Been Recorded On The 20th Of July 1982 At Banks Hill, Barnoldswick. The Informant Is Harold Duxbury And The Interviewer Is Stanley Graham.

R- I am 82 this week, on Saturday.

And where were you born, Harold?

R - I was born in Wellhouse Square, Barnoldswick.

Ah, just by the mill there.

R - No, off Twenty how.

Oh yes, I'm thinking of ... I'm sorry I always think, when somebody mentions Wellhouse Square, I don't know why but I always think of that square of houses. Yes, that's it, off Bank Street.

R - Yes, well it's the end of Bank Street, it's the end of Wellhouse Street.

That's right, it's me, I'm getting mixed up.  Now, how many years did you live in the house you were born in?

R - Well, I was carried in the arms down to Carr’s House, Full Syke, down here on the right so I would probably be about six months old then, but I couldn't walk.

So you only lived at Wellhouse Square for six months.

R - For six months, yes.

And then, you and your family moved down to Carr’s House?

R - Yes.

And how long did you live at Carr’s House?

R – ‘Til I was nearly 9.

Well, the questions I'm going to ask you about the house you can remember most about will obviously be Carr’s House. Do you know why your family made that move?

R - Well, this house became vacant and my grandfather lived at and farmed Crook Carr Farm. That's just across there and so my father was interested in his own neighbourhood and in that house. Therefore, I think there was about seven acres I would say to the house which my Uncle Oliver farmed. He took on the farm buildings and we, our family, lived in the house.

And where was your father born?

R- At Earby.

Do you know exactly where?

R- No.

Why did he come to Barlick then?

R - Well, my grandfather Duxbury was an overlooker in the mill at Earby and he fancied farming so they went, took a farm at Paythorne, Higher House Farm. They were there, not a very long time and then they moved to "England's Head" farm.

(5 min)

Aye, now where's that?

R - That's at Paythorne and there's a footpath that goes through the farmyard and you can go on this footpath from Paythorne pub right through the farmyard at England's Head and come out at the stepping stones at Nappa across the stepping stones in the Ribble. You've seen them I presume. The family went to school at Paythorne and the school in those days was the old Toll Bar which still stands at the top of the hill leading down to Paythorne Bridge and that used to be the day school.

When you say 'the family' that’d be your father’s.

R-  My father's family, yes. All the sons and daughters. You see, to give you a short history of the family, from England’s Head Farm they came to Crook Carr Farm which is just here which is quite a good farm.  I should give you a few more details about Paythorne I think. I know it's going back. You see there was very few shoes and that kind of thing in those days. They were all clogs. They used to have to walk from England's Head to Barnoldswick to get their clogs wrung. They went to, as it were, Greenwood Hartley in Jepp Hill. They had a little shop there. I don't think you'll remember it but I do. I remember Greenwood Hartley being there and he was a clogger. They used to bring their clogs there to be re-wrung. I suppose one of the lads would bring the lot but they'd to walk it, it was the only way. In those days my grandfather was a Methodist local preacher and I believe he was quite a good preacher.

What was your grandfather's name?

R - John.

John Duxbury.

R-  And my grandmother's name was Brown. You know Willie Brown of Henry Brown Sons and Pickles? His father and my grandmother were brother and sister. Willie Brown and my father were full cousins.


Now, your grandfather went out to Paythorne from Earby then, so he'd met his wife in Earby.

R - Yes.

Aye, that's it, yes because the Browns, they were in Earby too.

R - That's it. Now then, going back again, I don't think I need to say much more about Paythorne.  My mother's side, if you want to know anything about my mother's side. My mother was called Gill. She'd several brothers and sisters all in Barnoldswick.

What was her Christian name?

R-  Sarah.  My grandmother Duxbury’s name was Sarah too.

(10 min)

But anyhow, they came from Greenhow Hill which is near Pately Bridge. There was a big family of them and my grandfather used to own the lead mines at Greenhow Hill. He was bondsman for somebody, was my grandfather and they let him down and he paid up, paid every penny and came to Barnoldswick with nothing.

Have you any idea of when that would be roughly?

R - As near as I can tell you, Jubilee Year, 1887.

So he came from Greenhow down to Barnoldswick in 1887. He’d be .... When you say “your grandfather”, you mean your grandfather Gill.

R - My grandfather Gill

So he came down here and brought his family here. Presumably looking for work?

R - There was work here to be got, you see. The sons were experienced miners. So there was only one of the family, my eldest uncle, John, he went to a little place called Brotton which is near Saltburn, Redcar. There were iron ore bars at Skinningrove and he worked in the mines there and got married there and married a lady from Staithes and they had a big family. Gills all over the place, thirteen sons and one daughter and the daughter died and the other sons, well there's an abundance of Gills in that district. He was a big man, six foot odd and as straight as a rush when he was an old man. He used to come over and we used to look forward to Uncle John coming over and of course, we still keep in touch with the family. Occasionally we've gone over there and they've been over here.

So your mother was born in Earby?

R - No. My mother was born at Greenhow Hill.

She was born at Greenhow Hill, that's it I was thinking of Brown.  That was your..

R-  My grandmother.

Well, she was born at Greenhow Hill and she came down here and presumably she'd meet your father in Barnoldswick.

R - That's right. My grandfather went working at Newfield Edge.  Slaters.

Now do you mean the house at the bottom of Folly or do you mean far Newfield Edge up at the top?

R - I mean the house at the bottom of Folly.

That Slater built?

R - That's right.  And he went working there and he worked there for forty years and never had a day off.

So what was his job there, Harold?

R-  Everything.


R - Yes, general factotum, bit of farming, milk hawking. He used to have a kit and he carried the kit on his back strapped on and they hooked it off.


I've always thought of Newfield Edge as simply a mill owner's house but I take it there was some farm land with it as well.

R - Oh yes! There was farm land. There's farm buildings with it today.

(11 min)

Yes, there is a cottage at the back and some buildings. Yes, that's interesting. When Slater came to Barlick and took that, well he came to Barlick and Slater had a mill at Galgate at Lancaster and he bought Mitchell's mill.

R - Wait a minute, you're talking about Billycock.

No, no, Slater - was it William Slater the first one. I've forgotten whether it was William Slater or John Slater but anyway he had the mill at Galgate and he bought Clough Mill [Mitchell’s Mill] in 1867 for £3,000 and that, as far as I know is when he came to the town. That's the first record I have of him coming into the town. whether he was a Barlicker before that, I don't know. He was certainly running the mill at Galgate because I got that from the Craven Bank records.

R - Yes, but I'm not sure on the ground here, that Fred Harry Slater who lived at Carr Beck, he owned Clough Mill. Now then, Joe Slater who owned, who was partial owner shall we say, with Fred Harry Slater, owned Clough Mill together. So they could be brothers but I'm not just sure. He lived at Carr Beck here and Joe Slater lived at Newfield Edge.

I wonder if William was their father, William Slater?

R - I don't know.

That's something that'll come out as I'm looking at other things. Your grandfather was working at Newfield Edge.

R - Yes. You see, I'm just inclined to think, I don't know, that there might be something just a bit with this William. You see it was William Bracewell, Old Billycock and he built the Methodist Chapel and he was, he lived at...

He lived at Newfield Edge?

R - He lived at Newfield Edge and he was the father of the Bracewell who was the vicar at Barnoldswick. He finished up his career here and his daughter... Old Billycock's daughter, Bracewell, married Joe Slater. They lived at Newfield Edge and so did Billycock before so Slater stepped in to Newfield Edge. Slater wouldn’t build it, Billycock might have built it. Bracewell's daughter was Mrs Joe Slater.

(20 min)

Now, she lived to be a big age and lived up there on her own and she had one daughter, Hilda Mary. Joe Slater was the father, Hilda Mary Slater.  Mrs Slater, the old lady, Billycock's daughter, she used to get on to the telephone to my mother. It'd be two or three times a week and it'd be at least an hour. That was the only way that she could contact people and that was her means of communication with the outside world. Of course with my grandfather working there so long, she'd known my mother literally speaking all her life. My mother, when they came to Barnoldswick worked as a throstle spinner at New Mill.


Wellhouse Mill these days.  Well it was Wellhouse Mill then I suppose but anyway, I suppose she…  They all grew up, the daughters and sons and got married and raised their families.  Peter Gill here is the grandson of my Uncle David and he was the next to the oldest of the Gills. John was the eldest then David and Peter is the grandson of David. There was Norman Gill, Val Gill and Morris Gill, Fred Gill and all these.  They're in various parts of the country. Peter's probably the only grandson that is here in Barlick.  Peter has the family Bible because I gave it to him, well I got it for him. He'll be able to help you a bit probably. Anyhow, I think I've said enough about the Gills.

Can I get a date down, how old was your mother when she died?

R - 86.

What year did she die, can you remember?  What I'm trying to nail down is what year she was born.

R - Oh, I can get to know that for you. It's all recorded in the family Bible.

Oh, very good! Can you tell me, just for our conversation now, can you tell me roughly when did she die?

R - She died in 59 or 60.[1958 actually.  Harold remembers it later]

(25 min)

So if it was 60 that would mean that she was born in 1833 or 4, something like that.

R - Yes.

1873 or 4, rather.

R - Something like that yes. Resulting in she wouldn't be working when she came to Barlick. I should think she'd be just about ready for working when she came to Barlick.

That’d make her about ten or eleven years old when she came to Barlick and that’d be about working age then. Good that's nice to nail that down, Harold. How many brothers and sisters did you have?

R - I had three brothers, that's four boys and three sisters.

There were seven children in the family?

R - That's right, yes.

Were there any children born that didn't survive?

R - Cecil who was next youngest to me died just before he was five years old. Not that he wasn't a strong, healthy lad, he was but you know, living down here.  I mean our playground was the fields and the beck and quite a common thing was for us to go beck-jumping and falling in. They said it was croup and ulcerated throat but the doctors told us these days it would be diphtheria. Anyway, he died and he was a tartar! Held have been 80 just gone, March, just gone this 24th March.

So you'd be jumping over the becks down here and that would be just shortly after 1900.

R - That's right, I was born in 1900.

Can you remember when you were young and you were living at Carr’s House, were there any relations ever lived in the house with you?

R - No.


You lived there on your own. Did your family ever have any lodgers?

R - No.

Your father's job. What was your father's job when you were born?

R - He was a joiner.

Did he become a joiner when he came back to the town? You know, when he was farming down here or was he a joiner and a farmer at the same time?

R - No, he didn't do any farming, did my father. He served his time at Earby with Dodgson’s. [Alfred Dodgson, ironmonger of 4 Victoria Road and Blacksmith of Lane Ends {Barrett 1902}] He was a joiner cum wheelwright cum, everything. That's where he served his time and then he came working for Proctor Barrett.  He left there and went to Waite and Lamberts in York Street. He walked from here up there. I don't think he would be a long time at Proctor Barrett’s. Both him and Jack Briggs worked at Waite and Lamberts.

From there we went to Bracewell School which is now the institute opposite the church. The teacher was a Mrs Watson and she lived in the top house at Park Road. On the long row, the little small houses. They called her husband Walter Watson.

(30 min)

And she walked from there down to Bracewell. She could walk! She couldn't half leg it! She did it for years and there was one class from bottom to top.

What ages would that be?

R - From five to thirteen.

How many were there at that school, roughly, any idea?

R - Somewhere between thirty and forty.

She looked after the lot?

R- She looked after the lot.

Can you ever remember when you were at school were there any school meals?

R-  Oh no!

Was anybody ever given a free meal?

R-  No.

We'll come back to that later because that's one of the interesting things. I'm jumping the gun now but we'll come on to that later. Your father, did he have any other job before he died?

R - Well, he was always in the building trade. They were joiners and builders and undertakers.

That's something that we've got to make clear, we've come to that now is that Jack Briggs and your father founded the firm of Briggs and Duxbury’s. Can you tell me about that?

R - Yes. it was on the Croft. Do you remember it being on there?


R - Do you remember Jack Martin being on there?


R - On the right hand side?


R - Well a bit further along on the left. This place that’s just been burned down a couple of years ago. That were our joiner's shop. The business was taken over, Briggs and Duxbury's took on the business of William Holdsworth or Will Holdsworth. He retired and they took on the business in 1909, March because I was only eight.  And of course then we moved into the house right opposite the joiners shop that Will Holdsworth had. There was a little furniture shop as well with the house, you see and we kept that on and the undertaking, he did undertaking as well, you see.


And of course, he started with the undertaking right then, you see, right in the very beginning.  And in those days, there was literally speaking, no mechanised machinery. The only thing that we had in those days was a circular saw that was geared and you had to wind the handle at the side like a wringing machine.  We as kids, we had to wind this handle for them to cut the wood. As to how long they had that, I just don't know. Then we got a gas engine and we had it down below.

And this was on the Croft?

R - Yes.

Can you remember what year that would be about?

R - Well I should say about 1911 that we got a gas engine. Of course it was water cooled and all that kind of thing, you know. We used to have to heat it up and there was a kind of - not a Bunsen burner - but a long tool. You had to light it and that were the first job in a morning.

Can you remember what sort of engine it was?

R - I think it was a Crossley.

(35 min)

Then we got a planing machine and a mortice machine and then we got a spindle moulder. Literally speaking, that's all we had for donkey's years.

When did the firm move from the Croft to down where they are now?

R-  Down where they are now? 1936.

So they were on the Croft for a long time!

R - Oh yes, yes.

The name of that road, down by the side of Butts Mill there?

R - Well, it's just Butts.

Aye, Butts. I suppose that's why I can't remember the name of it. So your father would still be alive when you moved from there?

R - Oh yes.

Did he build that works purposely there?  Did he build that works?

R- What, where we are now?  No, it was a lodging house, model lodging house. There was two lodging houses, one that's a garage now, just at the bottom of Butts, you know and then there was this, and Bill Taylor built it.

Built the lodging house?

R - Yes, where we are.

Now, can you tell me about the lodging house and about Bill Taylor?


R – He’d been brought up in the building trade and he had a brother, Harry Taylor. They both built but Harry Taylor went to London but they built quite a few houses. They built Hollins Road. They built most of them up Taylor Street did Bill Taylor. He has a son living and two daughters living.  Do you know Jack Starkie?


R-  Well, Jack Starkie's wife is Bill Taylor's daughter. She lives in Hollins Road.

So he built both those lodging houses?

R - No, no.

He built the big one that you're in?

R - Yes, the one that we're in. I'm just trying to remember who built the other but that doesn't concern us so much does it?

No, no, that's all right.  When would that lodging house be built about, any idea?

R - I should look at deeds to give you ...

I was just wondering if you had a rough idea.

R - I'm not sure but I think it were built before the war. Oh yes, I should think it would be about 1911.

Why were the model lodging houses built?

R-  Well!, there was so much cotton industry in those days and there was always work for weavers. These fellows that were on the road could weave and that kind of thing. They used to come and lodge there, you see. They could keep themselves. There were a common stove and that kind of thing and they'd cook for themselves and they used to go and stand at six o'clock in the morning at the various mills and if there was anybody didn't turn up at say by five past six one of these 'tramp weavers' would get put on. They called them 'tramp weavers'.

It nearly seems that if that model lodging house was up for sale in 1936 when your father bought it that there might have been less call for a model lodging house than there had been earlier. Do you think the numbers of 'tramp weavers' were dropping off?

R - Oh definitely. Yes. There wasn't room for two.

There wasn't enough trade to keep two lodging houses going?

R - No. I would say that the peak of the cotton industry were over.

Would you say that it wasn't so much that there weren't the people, the 'tramp weavers' still looking for work, it was that there wasn't the work there for them in the town?

R - That's right and of course, by this time, Social Security and that kind of thing were entering the pattern of life. They were state aided and they weren't depending on just what they could earn.

That's very interesting that Harold.  When did your father die?

R - Now then, my mother died in 1958.

Ah well, you were only a year out.

R-  My father died in 1954.

Ah, four years before. He were 82 when he died?

R - That's right and my mother were 86.  Now then, she was ten years old when she came to Barlick. Now, I said Jubilee Year didn't I?


R - I'm wrong . Jubilee Year was 1887.

Was it 87 or 90?

R - No, so it's going to be so she were fifty..

1958 she died and she was 86 so that's fifty eight from eighty six. So that's 1872, she was born. She must have been born in 1872 so..

R - No, no, you're wrong.

Fifty eight from eighty two - from eighty six rather is twenty eight.  So twenty eight from a hundred is seventy two.

R - Yes.

And if she was ten years old when she came to Barlick they must have come in 1882.

R - She was ten years old when she came to Barlick.

Yes, so if she was born in 1872 which she must have been, that made it 1882 when they come to Barlick.

R -Our Wilfred were born in 1898.

And who was Wilfred?

R-  My elder brother.

Your eldest brother, he was born in?

R - 1898.

Yes, well she'd be 26 years old then. Your mother would be 26 years old.

R - Yes, that sounds somewhere about right doesn't it?

So it's working out. Dates always are difficult and the thing about dates is, it's nice if you get some that are exact but ....

(45 min)

R - Well it's going to be 1882 when they came to Barlick isn't it?

Yes, which is going back a long way.  No, that's near enough. That's it. Now we were just talking about the model lodging houses. So Jack Briggs would still be a partner then?

R-  Oh yes, yes.

So they moved into the works down on butts in 1936?

R Yes.

How long did Jack remain a partner?

R - Until he died.

When was that?

R- I can get that. I can give you the exact dates of that at a later date.

The last thing I want to do is worry you about dates because...

R - Well, it's only a matter of looking up in the funeral ledgers.

That's all right.

R - I would say it would be about 1950, I don't know.

Your mother worked originally as a throstle doffer at New Mill.

R - A throstle spinner.

A throstle spinner, yes.  How long did she work, do you know?

R -Ch I don't know. You see, she'd be ten and she'd probably be married about 1895. I'd say she must have worked into the teens of years. I know they used to work in their bare feet.

As far as you know, did she work outside of the home once she'd got married?


R - Well, I wouldn't think so, you see, because she might have worked a few months after, I don't know.

Did any of your brothers and sisters leave Barlick? The thing I'm interested in is if any of your brothers and sisters left Barnoldswick at any time to go somewhere else to look for work or anything like that.

R - Oh no, not looking for work but before that period was the war, the First World War.  Wilfred, as it was quite a common thing for these young lads, big strapping lads to give a wrong age and join the forces.

Of course, he’d only be 16 in 1914.

R - He were brought back out of France when he were 15, were our Wilfred.  He joined in 1914 and we were weaving in those days at Bradley’s. They went off at breakfast time with two or three of them but I tell you he were brought back out of France. He was in the Scottish Rifles then and he was brought home because of his age. He were brought out of France before he was 16.

They found out....

R - My father wrote. He didn't mind him being in the forces but he didn't like the idea of him being shot at because he was a young devil!

When you say he was working at Bradley’s, where were Bradley’s weaving then?

R - Bankfield where Rolls Royce is.

Bankfield, that's it, yes. Yes, because they started that shed in 1905 the first shed.

R - Yes

Can you remember about the First World War starting?

(50 min)

R - I can remember vividly the First World War starting.

Tell me about that Harold.

R - Well you see, there was panic everywhere and in those days you used to get 20lb bags of flour. Big white bags and 20lb in them. The first thing we had to do was to go down to the corn mill and get as much flour as we could with the trucks, you see. They didn't bake 31b of bread then, I suppose it would be 20lb, I don't know.

There used to be these big enamel dishes, yellow ones. Anyhow, the first really vivid… I was fourteen when the war started.  Was I fourteen?  Yes, I said fifteen didn't I.  He [Wilfred] was going to be sixteen. Anyway, I was fourteen and Wilfred was two years older than me and the first real shock we had in Barlick was when the Rohilla went down. I was working then as a weaver at Bradley’s and there were a lot of Bradley's weavers that was on that ship that was lost. Of course I wove there until I was seventeen and then I came out into the joiners shop.


How did you get to know that the war had actually started?

R - By telephone and Post Office.  Notices put up outside the Post Office.  Telephone and messages outside the Town Hall. There were daily, well two or three times a day messages when the Rohilla went down and put up outside the Post Office.  And there was few people in those days had the telephone. I don't think we had a telephone in those days as a firm.

How about newspapers then Harold?

R - Well they weren't up to today’s standards were they really?  They were a penny maybe, I think they were a penny.

The main papers in Barnoldswick then wouldn't be the daily paper, it would be the Craven Herald, would it?

R - Oh no, I wouldn't say so. There was daily papers.  The Northern Daily Telegraph and that kind of thing which was published in the evening. There was the Pioneer in those days.  There was news, literally speaking, telegrams coming in the First World War literally every day of somebody who was killed.  You've only to look at this book, to see the number of people that were being killed. The paper, Barnoldswick papers, Skipton papers and that kind of thing and there was always a whole list of photographs of these lads who had been killed.

(55 min)

What would you say was the general mood in the town at the beginning of the First World War?   Was it quiet?  Did people think it was a good thing or - can you remember anything about the general mood of the people?

R - About the war?

Yes, the beginning of the war.

R - Well, the general impression was that it wouldn't last until Christmas. It started on August 4th and it could be over by Christmas. That was the general attitude and the people - well I suppose that idea came from the top. Of course as you know, it lasted until 1918.

It caused a lot of trouble and a lot of deaths. So Wilfred went to the war but they brought him back.

R - Eventually, he went out to France again and he was gassed and wounded and transferred to the Seaforth Highlanders which is kilts. He was on the Somme, the Battle of the Somme which we have photographs of - well we had. Several Barlickers were killed during Ypres and the Somme. There were just a mad slaughter and there was a lot of Barlickers killed. They all knew one another so naturally they sought one another out. I joined the Air Force when I was seventeen.


You could volunteer, if you wanted to get into something special when you were 17. So I'd come out into the shop, into the workshop and worked as an apprentice joiner and tried to join up in, I think it was June. Yes, it would be June. After I’d been in the joiners shop about six months, and of course you had to have trade tests. Well, like, all my spare time being spent in the joiners shop, when I went into the joiners shop I wasn't just green. Anyway, it was so that I passed a trade test.

For the R.A.F.

R - For the RAF, yes.

Was it the R.A.F. or was it the R.F.C?

R - The 'Flying Corps' and I was in when it was changed to the RAF.  And of course, I did the training and all that kind of thing at Blandford and Wendover and then went to Ireland. I was in Ireland when the war ended, when the peace was signed, you see and I can remember that night in November we were on guard, well we all went berserk that night and had a big bonfire and there was a big potato field just over the fence.  We raided the potato field and we had roasted potatoes that night.  I got out of the Forces in early 1919, in February I think.  Yes, in February so I did less than a year in the Forces.  And they'd have never made me into a soldier, I wasn't interested. I was interested in the work I was doing but not as a soldier. You'd to do your physical training and gun drill and all that sort of thing but I got so far and I was out as soon as ever I could.

(1 hour)

I was ready for out!

What I'd like to do now is just ask you a few questions about that house that you moved into. I assume it was on the Croft, next to the works.

R - Yes, yes.

Now, you moved up there in about 1909.  How many bedrooms did that house have?

R - Three.

And what other rooms were there?

R - Living room, kitchen and a cellar - a big cellar.  No bathroom.

Can you remember any of the furniture?

R -  What, that were in?  Well, there’d be an extension table and there’d be a couple of rocking chairs and maybe six wood chairs.

When you say a 'living room' that’d be like a parlour?

R - There's no parlour.

Well, that's a room separate from the kitchen.

R - Yes.

So actually, you lived in the 'living room'.

R - Yes.

That was what it was, you didn't have a parlour, a front room and...

R - No, no, no. Furniture shop was the front room.


That's it, so there were three rooms downstairs and one of them was the furniture shop and that was where, presumably, where you sold the furniture that your father made.

R - Well not exactly, no. Furniture, three piece suites, linoleum, carpets and that kind of thing more than anything else but not generally speaking. Occasionally there was furniture in that was made across the road.

So which room did you have your meals in?

R - The living room.

Where did your mother do the cooking?

R-  Well, we had a gas oven. In the first place we had the old fashioned Yorkshire range.

And what was in the living room?

R - That was in the living room. Then eventually we got a gas oven and she did the baking. She had a table in the kitchen and it was not a big kitchen but there was room to have a table about three foot long and two foot wide. Most of the baking was done there. The pantry was on top of the cellar steps. There was stone steps down into the cellar.

So where did your mother do the washing?

R - In the cellar.

Had you a copper?

R - Yes, a gas boiler.

So the only source of hot water would be either the gas boiler or…

R - The side boiler.

The side boiler with the Yorkshire range.

R - We had a gas boiler in the cellar and we had a galvanized bath, a tin bath and we used to have the baths in the cellar.

How often did you have a bath?

R - Generally speaking, Friday night - the children.

You know, I'm sure that when they listen to these tapes in the future they're going to laugh at me because every time I ask that question I laugh because they'll think that everybody in the country had a bath Friday night. The sewage system of this country must have been overloaded every Friday night!  Well anyway, I'm sorry about that. You didn't have a bathroom and if you wanted a wash where would that be?

R - In the kitchen.

What sort of a sink was it?

(1hr min)

R - Brown earthenware.

Where was the lavatory?

R - Outside, up the ginnel.

What sort was it?

R - Pail. Soil. Dan Derbyshire who lived next door and us joined at one toilet.

And that was a pail toilet and who emptied that?

R - The Council.

Was it the Council that emptied it or was it somebody who contracted for them?

R - The Council.

And what was it emptied into?


R - Into a soil cart, tank cart.  You know, there was a horse and they emptied it in. They brought it down to the sewages in its present position and tipped it down there.

How often was it emptied?

R - It must have been ten or fourteen days.

Did the house itself have piped water?

R - Yes, just cold.

How many taps and where?

R - There was one tap on the sink and one tap down the cellar.

What were the floors downstairs?

R - Down the cellar?

No, I’m sorry, Harold, I've phrased that question badly. The floors in the downstairs room in the living room and the kitchen.

H - The floors in the kitchen and living room were flagged.

Ah, flagged over the cellar:

R - No, the cellar was under the furniture shop. That floor was wood.

Did you have any carpets down in the living room?

R -  No, not in those days. The only - a pegged rug, if you know what I mean?

Yes, I do Harold, but just for the people who listen to this tape and don't know what a pegged rug is, can you tell me what a pegged rug is?

R - A pegged rug was all hand made and we used to have to help to make them. Old clothes were cut up into strips. I would say probably 4” long and an 1” wide or ¾  wide we’ll say. There was what they called a 'pegging needle' and you pushed with an eye this piece of cloth in the needle. You pushed it through and up, you know, and up.

(1hr 10 min)

You got hold of the piece that you'd pushed through and got the needle out leaving it there, it hooked round, you see. Of course it was there for to stay, there was no question about that. We used to work patterns on them and all that kind of thing, designs and patterned diamonds, circles and so much in the middle one colour and then a border all the way round and that kind of thing and they were quite nice.


And then, after they had been pegged they were backed with Hessian which generally speaking was old bags, washed and sewn on the back and they were a nice job, a good job. Oh, I've helped to make hundreds of them.

Do you ever remember your mother putting sand on the floor?

R - No, I don't think so.

Have you got a stairs carpet?

R - Yes.

What kind of curtains did you have?

R - I would say that they would be printed cotton.

But would you say it was very unusual for people not to have curtains?

R - Yes. Generally speaking, people had curtains and with a roller blind. They didn't draw them to, they used to have these roller blinds - paper and with a pulley at the other end. A pin at one end and a pulley at the other and you wrapped the cord round a few times and then dropped the blind and it automatically wound round the pulley and then you pulled. it up, you see. They worked quite well.

How about the people in the houses nearby, how about donkey stone?

R - Wait a minute we're going back to the days when we lived on the Croft. We're not talking about when Mrs Bright came in 1940. Yes, you see the old donkey stone was quite a common thing.

No, there isn't much donkey stone about nowadays. How about the Yorkshire range? How was that cleaned?

R - Well there was only one way to clean it. It was what we used to call the 'ash hole' which was sunk and there was, in some cases a big ash pan, inside.


Generally speaking ash hole, it was shovelled out of the ash-hole into a bucket and carried out into the ash-pit. Not a dustbin, an ash-pit.

(1hr 15min)

Of course you'd to clean out all underneath the oven and underneath the boiler. Clean all that out and this was done about once a week was cleaning the oven and all round the oven and all that kind of thing. Then, of course some of it was, not chrome plated but plated was the hinges and that kind of thing but the remainder was black-leaded. We used to have a brush purposely for black-leading, a little round one about an inch and a half diameter and you spit on the black lead and then shone it up with another brush, you see.

Who used to do that? Did your mother do it?

R - Yes.

How was the house lit?

R - Gas. We had a mantle, gas mantle downstairs but all the upstairs rooms were wall flames.


R - That's right, yes.

So downstairs was the incandescent mantle.

R - Inverted.

It was inverted was it?

R - I think so, yes.

Was there any covering over it like a globe?

R-  Oh yes, you see hanging from the ceiling.  Well in those days it was a follow on from the oil lamps. Just an improvement from the oil.

Am I right, Harold, they used to call it a pendant fitting, didn't they?

R - Yes.

How about the gas mantle, say in Summer, if a moth got in or anything like that and started fluttering round it.

R - Oh well, they'd had it! They just dropped in bits, you see. You hadn't to touch them in any way or the mantle was ruined. If a bit comes off the mantle, the flame came right through and broke the glass that was somewhere near it and that kind of thing you see.

Can you remember when you first had electric light? The ashes went out into the ash pit. How did you get rid of the rest of the household rubbish?

R - it all went into the ash pit.


They'd come and empty this ash pit and there’d be half a dozen houses but there’d be special carts, low carts and they used to come and rake it all out and it used to be literally speaking half way across the street. Then a cart would come and shovel it onto the .. rake it all out - they had rakes. There was a door at the top to put it in and a door at the bottom to pull it out and they'd rakes to rake it out, you see. There'd be a cartload every time they came and that would be a weekly job.

Can I sort something out with you Harold that's bothered me for a long time. So if we're walking down a back street now in Barlick and you'll get some of the older back streets where you can see most of the cast iron doors have gone now but there used to be the cast iron doors on. You'll very often find three for one house and two of them, one is above the other.  Now am I right in thinking that would be, if it's an old house, that would be where the midden was?  Where the ash pit was? That you put the ashes in at the top and that it was raked out at the bottom?

R - That's right, yes.

So in most cases, the ones that I've seen you'd have to go out into the back street to put the ashes in.

(1hr 20min)

R- Yes, definitely.

And the other one, the other doorway, the one that's low down, that was the access for the pail toilet.

R - That's right, yes.

Of course, we're talking about the older houses.

R - Yes, well taking Commercial Street, a lot of the houses that was built say, after 1900, each had an ash pit for every separate house. You'd put the rubbish in, in the back yard and there’d be one outside to rake it out. In the one that I'm speaking of now on the Croft, it was a common one and there’d be six houses into that one and then Robert Street further on there, there was ash pits half way up and toilets. You see, in the middle of the street. The ash pits were outside and you went through a little ginnel into the toilets and there’d be four or five houses to the ash pits and four or five houses for two toilets.

So what we're now talking about is something that young people nowadays can't imagine. It's not something you'd like to go back to. There must have been smells and nuisances because of the fact that these toilets were pail toilets and there were these ash pits. Can you remember that? Is it something that's stuck in your mind?  Was it something that you just accepted?

R - It was just accepted. You see when they emptied the pails into the cart, they used to scatter some kind of disinfectant in them, some dust of some description and that stunk as bad as the other!


You just said something about dust.

R - A powder, I would say.

Yes, but, ordinary dust. Was there more dust about in those days than there is now?

R - Oh definitely!

How about flies?

R - Flies? Every house you went into had a fly catcher up! You understand what I mean by a fly catcher?

Sticky fly catcher.

R-  Yes, some of them had two or three up. They'd be full of flies.

I can remember those when I was a lad before the war. These are things which I know about them because I’ve asked about them and you know about them but in fifty or a hundred years, people won’t believe it. You know, they'll have had no experience at all. So how did your mother actually do the washing?

R-  Possing and wringer.  Dolly tub and a wringing machine.

Did she have a scrubbing board?

R- Yes - a rubbing board.

Yes, a rubbing board, aye.  Was the posser a copper one or a wooden one.

R - Copper one.

How often did she do the washing?

R-  Well, Monday was the washing day.

(1 hr 25min)

Always?  How long did it take her?

R - All morning - to wash. Then they had to be dried.

How did she dry it?

R - Well, out in the street across, the lines across the street and if it was bad weather, it was a clothes maiden in front of the fire.

Steaming away.

R - That's right, yes. Or a clothes rack, yes.

How did she iron it?

R -  Well, in the early days, just a lump of iron heated in the fire.

Did it have a slipper?

R-  No.

Did you just rub it?

R - Just rubbed it.

Some had slippers didn't they?

R - That's right, yes.

What would she go on to after that? Was it a gas iron?

R - it was a gas iron with a tube.

What can you remember most clearly about washing day?  What sticks in your mind about washing day?  Did the fact that your mother was doing the washing affect the meals you got that day?

R - No, it didn't. There’d usually be cold meat and you know, maybe carrots or turnips or cabbage or something of that sort, you see. Literally speaking the meat would be left over off the weekend joint. That was, generally speaking what mealtimes were. Ivy tells a story which is quite true.  [Ivy was Harold’s wife]  I’d better not say the places but as you know, I'm in Rotary and Ivy asked a certain Rotarian, “Well, did you have a good dinner today?" This fellow said, I can have a better dinner at washing day at home.."  We always had enough to eat, we never went short of anything to eat. I wouldn't say it was the most expensive but you don't want me to go into diets and that kind of thing.

Actually, I will ask you particular questions about that a bit later because obviously that's another interesting area where things have changed a lot.  People don't realise nowadays.  Did you and your brothers and sisters have any jobs to do around the house?

R - Certainly, but Wilfred and I were both milk boys.  In those days it was night and morning.  I started taking milk from down here and I was only five years old.

Carr’s House?

R - Carr’s House.  We continued taking milk.

(1 hr 30 min)

I’m sorry Harold, did you say when you were five years old?

R - When I was five years old I went with the milk.

What time was that in the morning?

R - It would be seven o'clock.  From leaving down here at seven o'clock.  We went on taking milk right until I was full time at thirteen. I went half time at twelve and took

(900) 1 hr 30min

milk on the other half of the day. There did a law come in, and I took milk for my uncle and I got 20 a week for night and morning and it was all measured out then, you know, from the kit. I was ten and there was a law came out that no milk boys had to be employed under eleven, so of course I was sacked. Anyway there was another milk chap come after me and I thought well, I couldn't go. He said, “Never mind, I'll take responsibility.”  This were Frank Smith. He gave me 3/- a week and a shilling a week was a lot of money them days!  So I went on for Frank for quite a while and then this wouldn't do and my Uncle Wilson wanted me back so I had to go back to Uncle Wilson so 1 got 3/- a week off him. This all went, I'm talking about Wilfred and me as well, it all went to me mother, we needed it. I can remember one Christmas, we used to get bits of presents off customers and we saved up all that we got. I think, between us, we got 23/- altogether at Christmas and we bought my mother a new coat.  In those days, another thing that stands out in my mind when we got a penny a week to spend, we used to go into the house, into the kitchen and get the jug down and pour the milk in. This particular house, I can remember the house today, I got this jug down and somehow broke it and I paid for it. I paid for it at a halfpenny a week and it was sixpence halfpenny..

That would be an extremely long 13 weeks, Harold.

R -It was 13 weeks. I had no spending money.  And they were so mean, that they took it all, every penny.  I never forgot


who it was. I never forgot who it was.

Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four Part Five Part Six

Copyright © Stanley Challenger Graham 1982