West Yorkshire market town of Pontefract
Pontefract Memories and Recollections




After reading the first issue of the Pontefract Digest it brought back many fond memories of Tanshelf.

I was born in 1939 at 9 Colonel’s Walk, Tanshelf. I had a brother Terry and a younger brother Michael. My cousin Gwen Unwin lived at number thirteen. We all attended Tanshelf Church of England School where the Headmaster was Mr. Lee (a very strict teacher!) I remember Miss Ackroyd, a teacher who lived in Wakefield Road. Both she and Mr. Lee moved on to Love Lane School. Mr. Lee was replaced by Mr. Wright. I still have my school report from Tanshelf School dated July 1951, the form teacher was Mrs Bridget McHardy.

We had some happy times in Colonel’s Walk. Our house was two up and two down, we had no hot water and the toilet was at the bottom of the yard. I used to dread going there in the dark. We had no electric, only gas lamps and candles. I remember Braunds Electrical Contractors installing an electrical supply at a cost of £15-19-6d. I still have the bill. My mother paid ten shillings a week until it was paid off.

We had some good neighbours who all helped one another in times of trouble. Tanshelf had a good community spirit.

Every street had a corner shop. At the bottom of our street was the fish and chip shop where Mrs Bessie Beaumont and Mrs Mabel Ellis worked. You always had a good laugh when you went in there. Opposite the fish shop was Tonks shop. Many a time we had been playing rounders in the street (men included) and somebody had sent the ball into Tonky’s shop and knocked the pop bottles over. Another game we played was skipping, with a clothes line the full width of the road.

Colonel’s Walk was all cobbles and every winter, after a fall of snow, it became the venue for sledging from top to bottom. It was like a sheet of glass until the council workmen came and salted it or one of our parents came out with shovels full of ashes and threw them all over the road.

School holidays were spent mainly on Pontefract Park. We would take bottles of water and jam sandwiches and spend all day there. To get to the Park we used to go down Colonel’s Walk, under the railway bridge and over the farmers field. You came out near the new shopping area (Halford’s etc). We crossed the road and climbed the stile into the Park.

Another favourite place was the Swimming Baths on Headlands Lane. It cost a penny for the small baths and we were there as soon as they opened. Mr. Coley was the baths Superintendent and the two Mrs Naylor’s took your money. Many a time my mother had come looking for us and Mrs Naylor came to the bath side and told us we had to come out. We used to pretend we were Esther Williams. There were no doors on the cubicles, which were round the bath side, so someone would stand in front of you with a towel whilst you got changed. Happy times. They used to hold swimming gala’s and water polo matches there which were very well attended.

On Saturday mornings we always went to the Crescent Cinema on Ropergate. It used to be called ‘Uncle Tom’s Saturday Morning Club’. He used to have us all singing "I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts" before the picture started. If we did not go in the morning we would go in the afternoon to the Premier. It cost four pence at the front (you always ended up with a stiff neck if you sat there) or six pence a little further back. There was always a serial; Batman, Superman or Flash Gordon, and of course a Cowboy.

Early in the morning the miners on their way to the Prince of Wales Pit used to come down Colonel’s Walk. The irons on their clogs used to strike the cobbles and make a ringing sound and then the ‘knocker upper’ used to come round with a long stick and knock on the windows of men who wanted an early call.

Starting in the August holidays we used to collect bonfire wood mainly from the Park Side and drag it home where it was put on the roof of the coal houses. We used to keep guard against ‘raiders’ who came frequently. All the families used to congregate and everyone contributed mushy peas, toffee, roast potatoes (skins burnt black from the fire) and fireworks.

We used to go on Club trips (Ex-Servicemen’s and British Legion) to Bridlington, Cleethorpes and Scarborough where we always bought a rolled gold ring which made your finger go green and a ‘Kiss me Quick’ hat. All the buses used to line up on Headland’s Lane. If your dad was a member you received pop, crisps, and an envelope containing money (I can’t remember how much) My dad was not a member so my Uncle used to put our names down and my mother paid for us. They were wonderful days out.

The first Thursday in November was Statis night. The fair was held on the fairground in front of the South Yorkshire Motors Garage. Tesco’s and the car park now occupy the site. It was a sight to behold, steam yachts, wall of death, waltzer, big wheel, caterpillar and boxing to name a few of the attractions. It was always well attended and very enjoyable. The fair used to stay a fortnight and a lot of the children from the fairground attended Tanshelf School. The same families came every year and we made friends with many of them.

I remember the Green paper as mentioned by R. Dawes in the 4th Pontefract Edition. My brother played all sports and he used to run down to Mrs Battye’s paper shop every Saturday for it.

I now live in Knottingley and have read the Knottingley edition of The Digest from the very beginning and thoroughly enjoy reading it, so I was pleased when the Pontefract edition was published. Reading about Tanshelf brought back a host of memories of the old characters and the happy times we had down ‘Tansh’.

Maureen Holt (nee O’Hara)


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