West Yorkshire market town of Pontefract
Pontefract Memories and Recollections


Recalled by Doreen Gregory

After reading the stories of Prince of Wales Terrace, recounted by sisters Cynthia and Janice Thompson in the January issue of the Pontefract Digest, I was contacted by Mrs Doreen Gregory (nee Jarratt) who expressed a wish to recount her own recollections. The following is what she had to say.

Although Doreen was actually born in a small terraced property in Sessions House Yard, Pontefract, in 1939 to parents Mr. and Mrs Harold Jarratt, she in fact only lived there for a matter of a few weeks before the Jarratt family moved to take up residence at 34 Prince of Wales Terrace. At this time, Doreen was the only child of the family. Later she was to be followed by her sister Margaret, and three brothers – Alan, Keith and Terry. Their arrivals completed the Jarratt family.

Doreen recalls a time when her father joined the Armed Services and was enlisted into the Royal Engineers. After serving his initial basic training period in England, he travelled back home to Pontefract where he was able to enjoy a few days embarkation leave with his family, before being posted abroad.

After his leave was over he made his return journey back to camp, and on arrival there, received his overseas posting for Iraq. He was to stay there in service for the next six years until his de-mob in 1945. Not long after his return to ‘Civvy Street’ he was able to take up his old job again as a miner at the Prince of Wales Colliery.

Doreen’s memories are still clear about her time living with other residents within the close and harmonious community that was the Prince of Wales Terrace. She recalls times when the air raid sirens were sounded and her mother would pick her up and wrap her in a blanket before setting off to meet up at her grandmother’s house, which was just a few doors away at number 58. Walking together to the general air raid shelter which had been built underground at the end of their street. Access to the shelter was obtained by descending a few stairs and entering through a small door. Doreen remembers the shelter being very dingy, cold and damp, but the occupants managed to maintain their spirits with gossip and sometimes by singing a few songs that were popular at the time.

On one occasion when the sirens had sounded, Doreen and her mother were making their way as usual to meet at her grandmother’s house, when her mother suddenly heard the sound of an aircraft flying overhead. On looking up into the sky to observe the aircraft, her mother noticed that it was a German aeroplane flying at a very low altitude. It was a mystery what it was doing flying over Pontefract but it certainly surprised her mother.

The Jarratt family, like so many other families, had to contend with trying to survive as best they could under the food rationing programme. One successful idea the Prince of Wales residents launched was a practical one, which consisted of exchanging goods. One such example would be, if a neighbour had a small surplus of sugar but suffered a shortage of butter, they would arrange a ‘swap’ with the neighbour. This sensible practice of exchange and barter covered the majority of foodstuffs governed by the rationing book programme, and everyone gained benefit from their participation in the scheme.

After the war in Europe was ended, Doreen remembers (as no doubt many of our readers do) the celebrations taking place on V.E. Day. Down at the Terrace, mothers had hung flags from their windows and strung gaily coloured bunting across the streets, which earlier in the day had been set out with long rows of tables and chairs borrowed from the houses for this occasion. All the residents had rallied together to provide some of the treats to feed the children who were attending the street party celebration. Doreen tells me the names of just a few of her fellow diners – Billy and Raymond Rose, Barbara Carter, Johnny Grimshaw, Ronnie and Barry Draper, Harold, Evelyn and Sheila Lancaster, Frank, Johnny and Carol Barton, Freddy Bond and many, many others. She thinks that one of the main promoters of the event would have been Mrs Risbrook who was a great organiser and was very well known among the Terrace residents. She was the one who was usually called upon by most of them when they had suffered a bereavement, or on more pleasant occasions if one of the young mothers was having a baby.

Doreen’s first experience of attending school was at Tanshelf Primary School where she met some of her first school friends, namely Kathleen Clarkson, Kathleen Naylor, Vola Reynolds and Jean Carter who were all mainly from the Tanshelf area. Doreen tells me that her time at this school was a most enjoyable one. She later moved with her friends to Northgate Senior Girls School, Pontefract. Doreen often comes across her old school friends when shopping around the town and is able to catch up and gossip about old times.

Living at number 34, one of the main problems which arose periodically and was also shared by immediate neighbours at 33 and 35 (the end three houses) was that of heavy flooding. On some occasions she remembers the floodwater reaching the height of the fire in the kitchen range and managing to extinguish it. She was once photographed standing in the middle of the water by a Yorkshire Post photographer who had been sent to record the problems faced by the families around 1957/58 with the fire brigade also in attendance, pumping the water away from the properties. It was always a miserable time for the families when they had to clear away the debris and sludge left by the receding water, but despite these events, Doreen enjoyed her life within the Prince of Wales community.

One of the residents of the terrace, Gordon Holdsworth, had an allotment on which there stood an enormous shed which contained a stage with benches at the front for the audience to sit on – the audience being those who attended the impromptu concerts which were held there. Entrance to these concerts was gained by an admission charge of 1d. Some of the ‘artists’ who appeared on the stage were Sylvia Bromilow, Janet Woodcock, Vola Reynolds, Sandra Heard and of course, Doreen herself.

When the time arrived for her to leave school, Doreen obtained work at Hillabys, one of the local liquorice factories which was situated at the bottom of Halfpenny Lane where the Kwik Save supermarket now stands. Some of her workmates were friends from her schooldays – Kathleen Clarkson, Madge Ward and Pam Helliwell. Their main working day was spent in the packing room under the watchful eyes of chargehand, Kate Parkin, who kept them on their toes. Sometimes they would be sent to work in other departments such as the cream room, or putting stalks in the mushrooms. These sections were in the charge of the foreman, Eddy Armitage. She recalls having many happy times there, always singing the popular songs of the day and generally acting about if Kate was away somewhere.

Doreen and her mates paid a small amount of cash each week into a savings fund, and later, when they withdrew the cash, they went to the well known photographic studio, Mauds of Pontefract, to have their photographs taken professionally. (Doreen still has her photograph in the family album). She continued working in the confectionery industry until she met her future husband, Peter Gregory, at the well-known and often written about venue that was the ‘Embassy’ in Ropergate. They were married in 1958.

Many readers of the Digest will no doubt have held many a romantic tryst there, and later, in many cases, would end with the sound of wedding bells. She dressed in the fashion of the day when attending the Embassy – pink top with ‘Rock Around The Clock’ printed on the front with Peter in his lime green socks and bootlace tie, thinking they were the business. She also went with Kath Clarkson and Susy Lancaster.

One of the great ‘boppers’ who incidentally was very much admired by the majority of the girls, was a lad called Alec Hearst, and his partner Jean, who he later married. They had in past times been winners of various dancing competitions. The Embassy was a very much-loved place to visit and everyone had many enjoyable times there. There were also dances held at the church hall, Baghill, but these were a more sedate and gentile affair, consisting mostly of barn dances, valetas and waltzes.

As a young man, Doreen’s father, Harold, played many games of football with the ‘Tanshelf Gems’. This was a team that, as the name suggests, was made up of lads from the Tanshelf area. Doreen has asked me to mention the football club and if any of our readers may possibly have some photographs or recollections about the Gems, we would be pleased to receive any information relating to her request.

Doreen Gregory was talking to Maurice Haigh


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