West Yorkshire market town of Pontefract
 
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Pontefract Letters Page

PONTEFRACT COMMUNITY CENTRE

ADDED 24 APRIL 2006

Further to my letter regarding the Pontefract Community Centre Under 18 Football Team, I thought some other information about the Centre itself may be of interest.

The youth football team trained at the Community Centre, known locally as the 'Miners' Welfare' or just the 'Welfare', on some disused grass tennis courts next to the embankment alongside the railway running between Tanshelf Station and Featherstone. Our coach was an ex-professional footballer called Rowley Hill(?). In the summer, we played cricket on the old tennis courts.

There were many other activities at the Centre to keep young people - particularly boys - occupied and off the streets. In the winter, as well as football, we had a thriving table tennis club with a number of teams in different divisions of the local league. Alan Hanson, as mentioned in my previous letter, and Brian Milner were approaching County standard and always featured prominently in the annual table tennis tournament held at the Town Hall/Assembly Rooms - a very popular and well-attended event.

There were a couple of snooker tables, used by both adults and junior members, and we spent many hours practicing our skills, although at that time snooker wasn't the popular sport it is today. There were also ballroom dancing classes, which of course, involved both boys and girls.

In the summer, as well as the impromptu cricket games - which involved boys who went on to play for Pontefract such as Brian Farrar and Barry Crofts - there was a very active tennis club. The members were mainly adults, although a few of us, whose parents could afford the subs and equipment, were junior members. From memory, there were four red shale hard courts and one grass court that was used only at the height of summer if it was not too wet. Here again there was a local Lawn tennis League and the star player was a man called Larry Sixsmith.

There was also a Crown Green Bowling Club, with a couple of very good bowling greens. Again, this was generally an adult activity, although the juniors were allowed to play and some became excellent players in later years.

The grounds, tennis courts, bowling greens etc., were kept in excellent condition by Mr. Hart, who lived in a house in the grounds. One of Mr. Hart's two sons, John, is on the football team photograph included with my previous letter. There was a caretaker, whose name I forget, who also ran a little shop in the Centre selling sweets, soft drinks and I suppose cigarettes for the elder members. A manager was in charge of the Centre, although they changed quite frequently, but I do recall that a Mr. Lodge (Bob), who had been a local teacher, had some involvement in the running of the Centre for some time.

The Centre had obviously been a grand house and estate at some time, but I am not familiar with its history. I do wonder whether it had anything to do with the Hartley family who were prominent architects and builders in the area. Also I am not aware who owned the property at the time we were involved in the late 40's/early 50's - probably the local council or possibly it had something to do with the Prince of Wales Colliery. It would be interesting to know its origins.

Bob Battye


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