By RAYMOND BROOK
at the title of this article you may question what the name implies. But
if you had lived in the Old Church district of Pontefract during the pre
war years, you would know that it was the name given to local residents
in that area.
"All Saints Church" was, and still is, referred to as the Old
Church and consequently the surrounding area was dubbed Old Church,
boasting an Old Church district Post Office.
this small district of Pontefract, from the bottom of Baghill,
encompassing the Booths and either side of the church, down to the
Bondgate area, the term cabbage cutter was endowed on the local people.
This was because of the number of market gardeners who dwelt there and
also quite a good few of local people were allotment holders, growing
their own vegetables, and as in the case of our family, hawking the
surplus from door to door each weekend.
near to The Fox public house, Earnest and Sconner Carter lived, from
where they ran quite a decent sized market garden business. In the
spring of the year they harvested large quantities of cauliflowers,
which were often sent by rail to various markets. Other growers were
also cutting and marketing their spring cauliflowers, some who grew on a
small scale would sell their produce from their carts at weekends on
their regular hawking rounds. There were also several fruit and
vegetable wholesalers who brought and distributed produce to local
shops, notably Sainter’s, Colly’s and Briggs who were based in
Pontefract and bought extensively from local growers. Each of the
growers had their own strain of seed, having selected one or two of
their best cauliflowers, and these would be left in the fields for
months, until the seeds were mature, standing out amidst the other newly
planted crops. Each grower thought they had the best seed strain and so
guarded it jealously, though if the truth be told, it was all very much
alike. One thing I do know for certain is that the produce then was far
more superior to much of the stuff that is sold today, the cauliflowers
were larger and as white as snow, all being grown with generous
quantities of manure, unlike today when only chemicals are used for crop
course vast quantities of cabbages were grown all the year round, as
well as autumn cauliflowers and sprouts, the latter often harvested from
the plants in mid winter when they were covered in frost and snow. Catch
crops of spring onions and radishes were grown and marketed during the
in the fields was a back breaking job in those days, as everything was
harvested by hand. Many days were also spent hoeing and earthing up the
crops, but it gave employment to a number of men and provided casual
work for a few women in the summer months, pulling and bunching the
radish and onion crop.
smaller growers were struggling and had their backs to the wall at this
period of time, and one after the other ceased to trade. Jim Spence of
the Bar House who was a cross between a farmer and a market gardener was
declared bankrupt during the war years and ceased farming. If he had
been able to hold out for a year or two, he would have survived, as
subsidies were introduced. The term ‘feather bedding’ became a
well-used phrase, as food growers became substantially richer with these
handouts which continue to a great extent to this day.
of the arable land that was used for the growing of the crops, notably
around the ‘Cobbler Lane’ was eventually sold off as building land.
so the post war years have seen the demise of the market gardeners of
the Old Church, with the land now smothered in houses instead of
cabbages, and the Old Church cabbage cutters are now very thin on the
ground. Often when we meet a previous fellow ‘Old Churcher’, which I
may say is becoming quite rare, we remark, "There’s not many of
us left now"….and that’s a fact!