FINKLE STREET AND NORTHGATE
by MARJORIE FAIRBURN
The stories by Mrs Margaret Applegate of the Northgate schools brought back
many happy memories to me as I spent my childhood and teenage years
during the 1940s living in Finkle Street. In those days the street was
practically self-sufficient and at the entrance to it, just off
Horsefair, stood A. P. Smith’s, a quality store selling clothing,
furniture and household goods. Opposite, on the other corner, was a
similar store – Grandidge’s, that also sold jewellery as well as
baby clothes and prams.
Into Finkle Street was a passage to the rear of Grandidge’s store which led
to the Pawnbrokers department where during the week people could be seen
going in with large brown paper parcels to borrow money and then at the
weekend they would return to retrieve their goods.
Next door was the Rose and Crown public house from which singing could be
heard most evenings. The exterior frontage of this building had very
decorative wooden features that can still be seen today on the upper
building area. The next shop was Mrs Battye’s shoe shop followed by
Barber’s delicious fish and chips, which they provided every day.
On the opposite side of the road was Mr. Cawthorne, the tailor, who could
often be seen sitting cross-legged in the shop window at work on his
latest creation. We lived in the house next door to Mr. Cawthorne where
my father ran a hairdressing business.
Barber’s fish and chip shop stood the place of worship, the
Congregational Chapel, still going strong today. At about this point
Finkle Street runs into Northgate with terrace houses and cottages
facing each other. Before reaching the next shop you could smell its
wares of freshly baked bread and pastries wafting up the street. Horner’s
with a shop window full of confectionery of all shapes and sizes.
the cottage next door lived Mr. Fisher the milkman along with his wife.
Customers would be greeted by Mrs Fisher always smart in her white apron
and with a large steel churn just inside the door with its measures
hanging from it with which she would fill jugs with a pint or a gill of
milk. Mr Fisher kept his cows down Skinner Lane in a field that is now
the Pontefract Collieries football ground.
to Northgate and opposite Horner’s was another fish and chip shop
belonging to Mr. Whiteman. Next door was a large house where Mrs Jones
ran a second-hand shop and also sold second hand clothes. Later it
became a bookmakers shop. Just around the corner, which now forms the
entrance to the bus station, was a garage and blacksmiths premises.
Directly opposite was a yard that stabled horses and carts which the
Corporation used on various jobs around the town - it was also the
workplace of Heseltine’s Memorial Works. Next door at the junction
with Skinner Lane stood one of the best known shops in Pontefract, the
shop that sold everything - Bullocks store. Like the Windmill Theatre
– it never closed! It served customers from miles around when others
were closed or didn’t have what the customer wanted. The shop was run
by two ladies, Mrs Bullock senior and Francis her daughter, helped
behind the scenes by Francis’s son Geoffrey.
door to Bullock’s was Mr. Whitehead the cobbler who kept the streets
shoes in good repair.
schools came next with the Infant and Junior’s on one side of the road
and the Senior Girls, (which is now a restaurant), on the other. The
Senior Boys was around the corner in Back Northgate which was the old
Kings School, (now Morrison’s supermarket). At the bottom of Northgate
were the Maltkilns which had their own sweet aroma. You could look in
through the barred windows and see the vast floors covered with malt
the road was Firth’s another small shop selling provisions while at
the bottom of Northgate and facing up towards the town was Sainter’s,
the fruit and vegetable merchants. So, as you can see, although we were
living in the centre of town you could get practically everything you
required in Finkle Street and Northgate.
other things we had within a stones throw, which everyone hoped to avoid
for as long as possible, was the Workhouse and the cemetery.
youngsters we had plenty of entertainment with dances at All Saints
Church Hall, St. Giles Parish Hall on Ropergate and Halfpenny Lane Youth
Club and when you were older there was Wordsworth’s Ballroom in the
town. We were also blessed with the four cinemas and a marvellous choice
of films every week.
favourite stars in those days were the singing partners Jeanette
MacDonald and Nelson Eddy and to remind me of those golden days, if
possible, I would like to see them featured in your ‘Stars of Stage
Marjorie Iona Fairburn (nee Williamson)