Middlestown as I remember it as a child
An extract from a wonderful memoir by Alan Flynn. More to follow soon.
‘Fings ain’t wot they used to’be’ as the title from Lionel Bart’s London show goes. Born in Dewsbury in 1942 I grew up in Middlestown, living with my parents and younger brother John in Nell Gap Lane until 1955, when we moved into a new council house in New Road close to the cemetery. Black-out blinds; outside toilets; gas mantles; black lead fireplace; frosted up inside the windows and icicles as long as two foot hanging from the guttering are some of my childhood memories of Nell Gap Lane.
During the Second World War things were tough for everyone. Whilst some men were called up for the war effort my father, Clifford, born in 1912 who had been a Miner from 13 or 14 years of age, along with other men living in the Coxley News area, produced the coal at several local mines necessary for the production of goods and food needed to both win the war and to survive at home. My mother spoke many times of living hand to mouth. I can remember the ration books which limited what you could buy.
Middletown was not exactly a hive of activity but, as a child I always found plenty to do with my friends. The sprinkling of shops, chapels, church and hall plus pubs, club and cinema, not to forget one betting office too, were situated at the Town End and along both the New and Old Roads in Thornhill Road and New Road. Only five buildings exist from my days as a child providing the same services; the Junior School, The Little Bull, Black Swan, Second hand shop and Middlestown WMC.
We lived in a one up-and-down terrace house behind St Luke’s Church, now flats. Washhouses and outside toilets were across the communal yard from the row of terrace houses owned by Mr Haley. The tin bath was brought from the washhouse each Friday night and filled with hot water from the set pot, heated from the black lead fireplace by home coal. A ton would be dropped in the yard and then shovelled into the coal place by my father and later by myself.
The washing was done across the yard; scrubbing boards, possers made of wood about 3’ long with three small legs at the end and used by hand, turned and pressed the washing in the tub and afterwards a mangle was used to squeeze all the water out before it was hung on the line across the yard. It was a manoeuvre in itself negotiating all the washing on several lines that hung between the houses and outbuildings. When a coal delivery was due it had to be ensured that no washing was out on that day!
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