A Brierley son returns
(or where’s the” Frying Pan” gone?)
to MEMORIES index page
1961, I left the village of my birth, having enlisted as a ‘boy
soldier’ in the army. I had committed myself to a tour of duty to 3
years training and 9 years with the ’Colours’. At the end of this
stint I signed on for a further 3 years. On my discharge (Honourable) I
opted for a life as a police officer in the Thames Valley Police Force,
stationed at Reading in Berkshire. My wife Sandra is a Reading girl, so
it seemed appropriate that I would stay in the south of England. This
where we lived for the next 22 years.
In 1997 my wife and I said
farewell to our friends and relations, our children had grown and made
their own way in life, and we moved back home (for me!) to Yorkshire. We
are now settled and living in Walton near Wakefield.
things first, I thought, a trip around the village of Brierley, or as I
called it ‘the nostalgia trip.’ Park Road, where I was brought up,
Number 12 is still there!!!! (as if it would have moved?). Around the
corner into Park Avenue, the bungalows, where granny and granddad lived.
Further on--- with a gasp “Where’s the frying pan gone???”
. My wife must have thought
that I had finally cracked! Stopping the car, to stare in utter
disbelief!!?? IT had gone ----- Gone forever!! The quarry
alongside Pudding Hill was full! Had it slid into it and been neatly
grassed over? As a child, I had seen this ‘phenomenon’ being built,
played in the footings and the houses as they were erected. Once
finished, had witnessed the families moving into their new homes, now
they, and it, had vanished! I hope they got out before it “slid” into
the hole at the back of their gardens. Perhaps Mrs Stothard in the
shop would know??? HELP!! That’s gone too! Now it is
someone’s residence. Maybe the dog-racing field is still there-----
now, where is it? Part of it is under some brand new houses. Standing
looking towards Hemsworth the ‘cow mounts’ have gone! How many
hours had we played on those mountains as children? Come hail, rain,
snow and sunshine the cowboys and Indians, cops and robbers, gone
forever, just a distant memory, voices ringing in my ears, sore
knees, scars still visible!!!
The railway line from Hull to
Barnsley and it’s tunnel, the smoke chimney to the left of Baywell
Hill, all gone now. Just fond memories, the ones you keep in your mind
all your life. I will never forget my time as youngster growing up in
Brierley. Now as I look around the village I see things I recall, some I
don’t recognise, but it is still Brierley, the village of my birth.
my journey around the village, I noticed that Elms Farm was still there,
the farmer as I recalled was a Mr Ashley, who along with his
“lassie” type collie dog, would walk for miles around his land.
Further along Common Road on the right were Elms Farm Cottages, where a
very good friend of mine John Grimes lived at Number 13. Next door to
John’s home would have stood a small cottage, the home of my paternal
grandparents, John William and Mary Anne Steele (nee Passam), and the
birthplace of my father, Wilfred Steele.
a short distance, “The Royd”, a natural spring feeding the dyke at
the bottom, a cool and refreshing drink on many a hot summer’s day. In
the winter, the slope of the ground provided excellent sledging. I also
noticed that the “Pear Line” trees were still there, the amount of
times we were told to clear off by the occupants of the houses opposite
were uncountable. Colonel Simmons’ house is still there, albeit an old
folks home! Whenever carol singing, both the Colonel and his wife would
insist that we had to sing to them, rather than their front door. We
ensured that we were both word and tune perfect!!!!
House, it’s battlement style facade still visible, I believe my mother
Olive worked here as a cook. Cordeux’s corner and then left here,
Violet Farm on the right, the petrol station long gone. I recalled to my
wife the times we had called there to fetch a pint of milk for our
parents. How I hated walking through that orchard to the house,
particularly on a dark winters night!!!! “Scaredy cat” she
muttered!!! I must have been at least 4 or 5, no bright street lights in
those days, just the old gas lamps by the roadside.
Proceeding along Church Street, Danny Oats’ ice cream ---- gone but
not forgotten! The old Institute opposite, now the village club, boys
club, scouts, school Christmas parties all held within its walls, to
name just a few activities I attended there. St. Paul’s cottage next
door, another family link, my brother John was born there.
“Goodness gracious me!” I exclaimed,
there derelict, stark and forlorn, the school!!!! Boarded up, empty! The
seat of my early years in education, Mr Balmforth (headmaster), Mrs
Fox, Mrs Horton & I think a Miss Saulsby? I can still hear their
voices in my ears. Looking to the left of the school, “what is going
on in this village?” I mused, the beautiful stained glass east window
of the church, clad in a huge metal grille. How things have changed!
As a child, I attended the church with other members of our family,
Sunday morning and again in the evening, and around mid afternoon Sunday
school in the Institute. If I remember, a Mrs Kaye was our teacher. She
lived in the first bungalow on the hill before the old Isolation
hospital on Brierley Common.
I think the church organist at the time was a Mr John Butterwood, the
Rev Webster, Rev Grainger & the Rev Cartwright were all the padres
as I recall. My brother Raymond and myself were members of the church
choir. “Gunner” Thorpe kept us boys in check!!! Both my sisters were
married at the church, at the young age of 6yrs; I acted as pageboy at
Joan’s wedding. I was considered “too old” to do the same at
Mary’s------ thank goodness!!!!!!
Sunday school trips to Burntwood Hall were well remembered. We set off
from the church on board one or two of Mr Ashley’s horse drawn drays.
The weather always seemed to be perfect on these days out. Attired in
our ‘best’ clothes, and under strict orders from our parents to stay
clean. We did try, ----- HONEST! I do recall one church choir outing, to
the ‘Mecca’ of the northwest coast---Blackpool. Rev Webster drove
us there in a bright cream coach with a green stripe along both sides,
front to rear. I remember the silver cross on the ’nose’ of the
bonnet, how easy it was to spot in the coach park at the end of the day.
I’ve somewhat digressed from my ‘nostalgia trip’ so I would like
to continue. Opposite the church, which is now the village store, was a
fish n chip shop, run by a Mr & Mrs Hardwick. Further along at the
corner, another shop, this was an off licence. I cannot recall who the
proprietors were. Hodroyd Cottages, or Pit Row, is still there, when dad
worked at the colliery the family lived in one of these homes, but this
was well before my time.
great friend of mine, John Cooper lived at number 8. Back to Church
Street, Brierley Hall, Where are the huge iron gates? More to the point,
who stuck that horrible extension on the side of it?????
Grange Farm is still there, and what I recall Baxendales Farm is. The
Methodist Chapel is there still. I recollect attending a youth club
there; Miss Jean Draper was the leader. The Spiritualist Church I
remember, it was built maybe 3 or 4 years before I left the village.
Coop Row, its long line of terraced houses, modernised now. The Coop
itself, a car upholstery business! Mr Brooks was the manager, the staff
included both Nigel Crossland, my brother John, and much later my
other brother Raymond worked there. I vividly remember our Saturday
shopping trips in there, amazed at the speed of ‘reckoning up’ by
the staff, whilst they held a logical conversation with Mrs So-So, Mrs
Thingy or Mr Whoisit!! “And don’t forget to ask for my ‘divi,’
you know the number?” “Yes mum”, ----- I can STILL recite it.
Marked on my brain with an indelible pencil!!!!!
Opposite the Coop, was an enclosed paddock, gone now, houses built
thereon. ‘Patey Croft’ the footpath through to the Hemsworth Road,
the ‘big’ house on the corner of Frickley Bridge Lane, though
modernised now, is still standing. As I remember, the home of Tony
Spaxman’s grandparents. (Tony & I went to school together &
spent many hours together out of school.)
The Post Office is, of course, still in the same position, Mrs Maggie
Fry was the postmistress at the time. I can still see her standing
behind that metal grille, “Hello Gordon, on leave again! I have your
money order here waiting for you.” With out drawing breath she would
then ask, “when do you go back?????” I had only just arrived home!!!
Before I complete my narrative, I would like to point out that I have
another brother, I’m sure that some of you will know him, it’s
Ronald. He is living in Walton just along the road from me. After
working for many years on the railway, both he and his good lady wife,
Kath, are living in full retirement.
the Three Horseshoes. I think a pint of ‘Barnsley’ will go down very
well. Oh well---- yes please, Smiths will more than compensate!
yes, and a Brandy and lemonade for my good lady wife please.” She
deserves hers more than I do, having to put up with me trawling her
around this wonderful village of ours. Mind you, after some of the
shocks I have had today, I might just join her. Meanwhile I’ll just
sit here and see if I can recognize anyone, already I’m having
trouble!!!! We’ve all grown up and lost contact with one another.
Perhaps we’ll be able to meet sometime in the near future. Maybe
I’ll wear a name badge, my name thereon, stating, “Please return to
Brierley, the village of my birth”
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