West Yorkshire market town of Pontefract
Pontefract Letters Page



It was so nice to read that a lady living in Friarwood, Pontefract, is interested in how it looked in the past. The letter from Mrs Norma Follows brought back to me vivid memories of Friarwood, which I still see regularly on my visits to the hospital. I am not quite sure which row she lives in, names have changed since I was young. I was born in 1921 so my childhood memories are of the 1920s and early 1930s. My paternal grandparents lived at Friarwood for many years. They had been there a very long time by the time I was born and lived there until they died. My own home was at Baghill but I was always at my Grandma's and most of my childhood memories are of the Friarwood area.

As you reached the bottom of Mayors Walk, the long row which is still standing, opposite the Friarwood entrance of the Hospital, was there then. I even remember the names of some of the families who lived there; the Smithís, Burtonís, Gawthorpeís and the Dysonís. Everybody knew everybody else. After that row there was a small farm owned by the Petty's and later the Walker's. We used to go there with a basin and Mrs Petty, or one of the girls or men, would ladle the milk out of the large churns. Woe betide us if we spilt any of the milk out of the basin before we got back to my Grandma's!

After the farm was a row of six houses and this was where my Grandparents lived. They lived at number five. When my own parents were newly married they lodged in the front room of the end house, number six. I'm sure the house would be rented but Mr and Mrs Thorpe who lived there, were able to let two rooms, the front room and a bedroom. The houses were three-storey - the living room/kitchen combined were reached by walking to the end of the row, under an archway, and as you turned right the back doors of the six houses were there. The front rooms looked out on to the road and were reached by stone steps - all scrubbed clean every Saturday and Donkey Stoned round the edges. Nobody used the front doors except those, or perhaps only one, who had lodgers. The bedrooms were on the top floor, except for the main bedroom, my Grandparents bedroom, which was at the top of the stairs at the other end of the passage to the front room. The main bedroom had a lovely marble fireplace and mantelpiece which had china figures on it which fascinated me.

Returning now to the archway, as you looked to your left there was the verandah of about 6 or 8 houses. One of the families on there were the Ramsden's. Mrs Ramsden was a big jolly woman in a spotless pinafore who was always smiling and laughing and everyone knew her. There was also a lady lived there who was always sent for to do the 'laying out' when someone had died. Now, after the archway, was Mr and Mrs Shenton's house. I was a friend of one of the girls, May.

Next was what was called the Shop Row, because the first house was a shop in those days, owned by Mr and Mrs Keighley. The row is still standing and the first house looks as if the front room is the one looking on to the road. Mr Keighley wore a brown overall jacket, like the one worn by Arkwright in 'Open All Hours'. Mrs Keighley was fat and jolly and wore a spotless overall. Mr Keighley used to tease my sister and me by calling us Eliza and Maria. I used to say, "That's not my name", and he would say, "What is it then?" I would say, "Hilda" and he would smile and say "Oh dear, I'm sorry".

After the shop row was Eagle Cottages and then I think probably the row in which Mrs Follows lives now. Back to the bottom of Mayors Walk, on the Hospital side, there was a large orchard belonging to the Glover family. Their house was at the bottom of Bluebell Steps where the hospital buildings are now. The orchard was full of fruit trees and gooseberry and currant bushes. You looked out of my Grandma's front room on to the orchard and it was protected by a low wall which ran the length of that part of Friarwood. We played on the wall and could walk on it as many of the stones were flat where numerous little feet had walked on it over the years. After the orchard there were some houses dotted about and one was the Policeman's house. Then there was Maw's Nurseries owned by Mr Maw who lived in Mayors Walk. My Uncle Albert worked there from leaving school until it closed down. Mrs Maw must have done all the clerical work as she used to walk from their house to the Nurseries with papers under her arm. She was a very stately lady and wore lovely clothes. Sometimes she had her daughter Kathleen with her, a very quiet, charming girl in her brown High School uniform. I don't know whether Wally the son worked for his father. The Nurseries brought you to the end of Friarwood. 

We used to go half way up Mayors Walk where the elevated part had stones you could sit on called 'Cuckoo Stones'. If you shouted you were supposed to get an echo.

I hope Mrs Follows now has a better picture of what Friarwood was like in my childhood.

I loved Friarwood, but of course I loved my Grandma so much. She must have loved me to have me there so much of the time.

Mrs Hilda Arundel

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