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of Brierley



A Brierley son returns (or where’s the” Frying Pan” gone?)


Back to MEMORIES index page


     In April 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.

     First 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.

  Continuing 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.

     Along 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!!!!

   Lindley 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.

   Another 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.

  Onward to the Three Horseshoes. I think a pint of ‘Barnsley’ will go down very well. Oh well---- yes please, Smiths will more than compensate!

“Oh 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”

I DID!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  

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