West Yorkshire market town of Pontefract
Pontefract Memories and Recollections



My earliest memories of living at number 63 Prince of Wales Terrace, Pontefract, was that it was a mining community. I was born there on 19th December 1936. I lived with my Granddad, Grandma Hill, my Mam and Dad, Auntie Doris and her daughter, cousin Pam, my brother Gerard, sisters Avril and Cynthia and myself Janice. My youngest sister Angie, was born up on the Chequerfield estate in 1950.

My granddad had a heart of gold and became a surrogate father to my father when he was called up for war service. It was six years before we saw our father again. He stayed in the army for 28 years.

During the war years my sister Avril and I went to Wilkinson’s woodworks which was down Denwell Terrace. It was where my dad used to work. My man got five shillings a week for fostering children. We spent it at Horner’s bakery shop in Northgate. We bought a big loaf, two currant teacakes, a pastry, then we went to ‘Skinny Lizzies’ in Finkle Street for six two penny bags of chips. My granddad gave us a shilling pocket money; 9d for the pictures and 3d for sweets. That was our Saturday afternoon treat at the Crescent Cinema.

Large families were not uncommon down the Terrace and some of them took in lodgers and also washing to help out. We had the biggest wireless, which sat on the table near the window. It blocked out all the light into the room. It was run on an accumulator which my brother and I used to take to Brooke’s Garage behind St. Giles Church to have it recharged. We used to listen to children’s hour, Dick Barton, Daring Dexters and Itma.

The downstairs rooms were lit by gaslights and we would buy gas mantle’s which came in little white boxes and were very fragile. At bedtime we would go to bed with a candle, we felt like Wee Willie Winkie. I still have my grandma’s candle holder, it’s an enamel one, dark green.

Memories of Prince of Wales Terrace Pontefract
Cynthia, Janice and Avril

My grandma’s washday was on Monday’s and we would help her with the wash. She used the Dolly tubs and a peggy, and then it was onto the rubbing board. Our job was to turn the wheel on the big iron mangle. When she had finished her wash she would tip out the soapy water into the yard which made the soot swirl about but the yard got a good swill. Our usual dinner was nearly always mashed potatoes, baked beans and cold beef.

During holidays and at weekends our time was spent in our Mam's hut in the flower garden. It was a refuge for us all to be away from under my grandma’s feet. My grandmother was a hard worker she did all the housework, cooking and washing but she liked reading and in the afternoons would put her feet up and read a book for half an hour. She used to do all her cooking on a large black oven range - it always had a big roaring fire in the grate. It was always warm downstairs but cold upstairs. We did have a front room but it was rarely used only on high days and Christmas Day.

We always had a real Christmas tree with proper candles held in a black clip which you clipped onto the tree. On grandma’s shopping list there would be Zebra Black Lead, scouring stone block and gas mantles. Most of the residents of the houses took a great pride in the appearance of them, scouring the stone windowsills and steps. We were very lucky children. Our granddad bought us the Dandy, Beano, and Radio Fun, but grandma liked the illustrated Daily Express. I tried to save 2d so I could buy Sunny Stories by Enid Blyton.

I can just remember V.E. Day. All our neighbours brought their tables out into the street. They managed to find some jellies, spam, jam sandwiches, fairy buns and biscuits. Mr. Moiser pushed his big piano out on the road with some help and then everybody had a good knees up and sing song. Flags were flying and bunting was strung across the street.

Times during the war were hard but we were more fortunate than perhaps others were. My grandfather had a large allotment on which he grew potatoes, carrots, cabbages, peas, celery and rhubarb. We also had a chicken run where we kept hens, cockerels and rabbits – mostly they were for the pot. We used to watch my granddad 'neck' the cockerels and pluck them, and then he would give us the feet to play with. We were well supplied with eggs from the hens and grandma made lovely rabbit stew with the rabbits. We girls had our own banty hens, Sarah, Hannah and Charlie, a banty cockerel which used to fly at us.

My granddad had lots of Hollyhock's and we used to tie the flower heads together with the bees inside. In the Whitsun holidays we would go to Hollywell woods over Ladybalk. It was a days outing and we brought back bunches of blue bells for the house. Our lunch was jam sandwiches and a bottle of water.

My granddad’s hut was a meeting place for all his friends. Friday night was bath and hair wash, and we had, like many others, a large tin bath which took ages to fill. My Mam would start with the baby and work up and then my grandmother would use the bath water to swill the yard. Then we would enjoy my granddads small potatoes he had cooked for the hens for our supper.

We had an outside toilet which used to freeze up in winter and squares of newspaper tied up with string behind the door. We were not allowed to come downstairs wearing our pyjamas in the morning; we had to roll them into a ball and put them in the sideboard cupboard. My Mam was an invalid and an hero, she used crutches in the house and she had a chariot to go out in. Mum taught us how to tell the time with a little pink clock, how to do blanket stitch and corkwork. My Dad made us a big dolls house and my Mam showed us how to make furniture using match boxes. We cut cornflake boxes down to make beds. Mam also made little rag dolls with arms and legs and wool for their hair. We thought they were great. My mam was a hero, she was the boss, a caring one.

The neighbours on Prince of Wales Terrace were friendly and we had a Mayor from the street, councillor Dick Robinson – he did us proud. His son in fact later became a jockey.

Mrs Reall in the top house used to sell postage stamps. My father's father (Granddad Thompson) was a bobby, he was known as 'Bobby Thompson’. They moved to Beverley when I was very young but we went to visit a couple of times.

We all enjoyed Sunday school with Miss Hinks and Brownies with Miss Ackroyd. I saw the sea for the first time with the Brownies. We went on a steam train with no corridors. It swayed from side to side and we thought it was grand.

We played hide and seek many times on the pit logs and often got chased by the pit watchman. I lived down Prince for eleven years before we moved up to the Chequerfield estate in 1947 on my eleventh birthday.

As one door shuts another opens.

Janice Bridgett (nee Thompson)


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