West Yorkshire market town of Pontefract
Pontefract Memories and Recollections



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.

After 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.

In 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.

Back 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.

Next door to Bullock’s was Mr. Whitehead the cobbler who kept the streets shoes in good repair.

The 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 grain.

Across 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.

Two other things we had within a stones throw, which everyone hoped to avoid for as long as possible, was the Workhouse and the cemetery.

As 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.

My 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 and Screen’.

Marjorie Iona Fairburn (nee Williamson)


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