Grandma and granddad Wood, my mother's parents, lived at 60 Moor Crescent in Hunslet, and the times I am trying to recall are about 1920 or a little later. Granddad was Thomas Wood (born around 1865, died in 1938). Grandma was Mary Anne Wood (born in 1862, died in 1939). Uncle John and aunts Mary, Theresa and Claire were also living there.
The house was on the edge of Hunslet Moor, the end one of a row of terraced houses, so it was fortunate to have a garden. The garden was only small but had a plinth carrying a large aspidistra, an evergreen plant with large thick dark green leaves. I believe in those days that it was thought a grand thing to have. A path led from the only door to a gate of wrought iron, which was only about three feet high yet that gate was locked every night with a metal chain and a padlock. Through the gate you were on road width,hard packed soil, enough for lorries and horse and carts to use. Then there was the grass of the Moor, which was a strip approximately six feet wide. This strip went round the edge of the Moor up to Moor Road.
Looking out from the garden were tennis courts, but the rest of the Moor was covered in boiler ash. This was readily available because each year, at the August shut down of factory boilers for maintenance, the ash was disposed of. A stone flagged footpath went across this part of the Moor from the street next to their house diagonally to Moor Road, where there was an "old man's shelter." This was circular, maybe 10 or 12 feet in diameter, panelled about three feet high and glazed up to six feet, with a door maybe wide enough for a wheelchair. A roof tapering to an ornamental finial. At this point on Moor Road there was a fountain.
Grandma would be busy with housework or knitting, crocheting etc. or baking. It wasn't customary to buy bread or cakes etc. Most houses had the raw materials: flour, yeast, salt etc and I can remember my mother used to bake at least twice a week. This was prepared in a large earthenware bowl known as the bread bowl. A stone of flour was placed in the bowl, a pinch of salt, then a portion of yeast and the whole was mixed by hand. Water was added gradually whilst kneading the flour, yeast etc and one carried on kneading usually with two hands until the dough was no longer sticky. This is left until the bread tins are greased which can be done with a small piece of paper rubbed on the block of lard.
When the tins are ready a portion of dough is placed in each and put into the oven. Ovens in those days were at the side of the coal fire, with a space under the oven, which joined the chimney. The coal fire was lit first thing in the morning so the oven would already be warm. One could open the oven flue by pulling a small metal plate; this, using the draught from the chimney, would draw the flames under the oven. I cannot remember how long it took to bake the bread. As there was usually some dough left after dealing with the bread tins, the remainder was rolled out into a circle about one inch thick, then mother would make a small hole in the centre with her finger and this "oven cake" was placed on the bottom plate of the oven. Freshly baked bread had a lovely warm smell. Enterprising ladies would make a different mix of dough and bake lovely cakes, or teacakes, scones etc; the recipe books have all the instructions. When later we thought of buying loaves of bread, it was from the local baker and he wrapped them in tissue paper, then when we bought them from a store they were wrapped in greaseproof or plastic. Mother would say, "I don't like paying for the wrapping too".
When each member of the family came home from work on the Friday, granddad and grandma would sit at the head of the table and, as each earner put his or her wage on the table, they would be given so much back as spending money. The main part of the wage was to help pay for the upkeep and food etc.
I have mentioned "old & mild," a cheap beer that one could buy from the public house. There was such a house just off Addington Street. Grandma once sent me with a jug and threepence. "Go to the back door, knock and ask for old & mild, and the lady will put some in the jug". Back at the house this jug would be put on the oven top at the side of a beer glass, handy for granddad to pour as he wanted.
There was a chap who used to come around the Crescent several times a week with a horse drawn, flat, four- wheeled cart, which had a canvas awning and side curtains. He sold vegetables and rabbits. I was told he bred these in his garden sheds and he could sell them fresh-killed. They were complete with skins on. I think his name was Gatenby. I once saw grandma cut the dead rabbit's head off and peel the skin off in one piece. Some people think nothing of killing rabbits or fowl and prepare them for cooking I think it depends upon the circumstances in which one is brought up. I could not do it.
Aunt Mary used to take me with her when she was going for tram rides. I
can recall one day, just before we got on a tram, aunt saying "Gerald, if the ticket inspector gets on our tram he may ask you how old you are. You must say you are not five yet. The Inspector did get on and walked along the tram looking at people's tickets. Aunt showed hers and he said to me. "How old are you, sonny?" I said "I am not five yet, sir." One ride took us to Crossgates and when we got off at the terminus aunt asked "How many church steeples can you see?" I looked all around me and said "Three, auntie." Then she said "Good, now wherever we are you should still see three. If not we may be lost." I think that made me frightened because I don't think I could do anything but keep looking. I don't think aunt wanted to scare me, perhaps she just wanted me to have something to do. Another day after riding on a tram and then on a bus, aunt asked if I was hungry and we went into a room and had a meal. The man came in to take the plates away and he said "Did you enjoy that"? "Yes, very much thank you," I said. He came back with a glass of beer for auntie and another glass of fizzy lemonade for me. We were both sitting with our backs to a wall and he then said. "Do you know what is on the other side of the wall?" "No sir". "Prisoners" he said, "We are next door to the prison."
Why do people always try to frighten young children? But then I did not understand what a prisoner was or did. He even told me that I had just eaten a pigeon pie.
Granddad was a workman and when he came home he would get washed before his tea. Now this may sound strange but in those days houses had only one water tap in the kitchen. If you wanted warm water for washing yourself or the lady wanted to wash any clothes they had to warm the kettle or pan on the fire.
For granddad to get washed, grandma would have boiled a kettle or pan ready for when he came home. He was dressed in corduroy trousers and a Union shirt without a collar; one could be fastened on by a small stud through a hole in the neck band of the shirt and a front stud which held the opening down the front, and was long enough to go through the two ends of the collar. Sounds complicated but most shirts had detachable collars then, even dress shirts. He had a narrow leather strap around each trouser leg, fastened just below the knee. I once asked him what they were for and he answered "To keep t'muck out o'mi' eyes". Coal miners in those days had to come home in their muck as collieries did not have pit head baths. You can imagine what that meant. They had to bathe in a zinc bath on the hearth in front of the fire. This meant warming several kettles or pans full of water on the fire.
Poor grandma, I haven't mentioned her yet. Her job was to keep house: cleaning, washing, baking, cooking, making beds getting meals ready etc. I remember those days before all the machines we have today. Housewives would usually wash clothes on Monday. On fine days the washing could be dried outside on a washing line. If wet the house was a dreadful damp place with clothes drying inside. Clothes were washed in a metal tub similar to a waste bin, and a "Peggy stick" which had a brass end on shaped with three legs and up in the centre a small pocket with a screwed cap in which you put a block of soap. With this you "possed" the clothes and twisted the stick which turned the clothes. The clothes were then lifted out singly and passed through a mangle. This had two rollers of wood about 24" wide and 6" diameter. The bottom roller was turned with a handle at the right hand side, the top roller had bushes which could slide upwards according to the thickness of the garment or blanket you were mangling. The two bushes were held down by a large leaf spring with each end riding on a bush, the leaf long enough to reach both bushes forming an arc. There was a screw in the centre through the top frame member and a hand nut on top so the spring could be tightened as required. Children could help by turning the handle, letting mother feed the clothes through the rollers. The water squeezed out by mangling would be caught in a bucket, but needless to say water would splash on to the floor. No fitted carpets then of course: the floor could be stone slabs, or if there were cellars, wooden floors which could be covered with linoleum.
Auntie Clare was the youngest. She was born in 1904 some 12 years earleir than me. She could play the piano quite well and often other young ladies would call to grandma's and play duets. I once saw them writing music but they may have been making copies so others could practice. She worked as a shop assistant at Fosters in Briggate, Leeds. Once my mother took me to see her. The staff in the shop made such a fuss over me, then I was given a watch, so I felt very proud. This shop had small tubes from each counter and when a customer bought something, the money was put into a small cylinder, together with a piece of paper, and put into one of these tubes, and when the lid at the end of the tube was closed there was a whooshing sound. Later there was another whoosh and the small cylinder came back and dropped into a basket. When opened it would have the change due and the receipt. I think other shops had these machines also.
One day in 1933, mother told me that auntie Clare had gone to heaven and that her sisters, including my mother, were with auntie when she died. One of the last things she said was "Little Gerald will be 17 soon." Then she said goodbye to them. They were surprised and asked why. Clare said "Can't you see them? They are coming for me over the Moor." She then closed her eyes and died. Some time after I asked mother "Why did auntie die, was she poorly?" Mother told me that auntie had had a little baby girl and then developed puerperal fever. This was caused by lack of hygiene. This was before Nye Bevan introduced the Health Service. Neighbours usually took on the job of delivering babies and "laying out the dead" ready for burial.
Gerald Murray was born in 1916 in Hunslet.
Moor Crescent pictured above, with St. Peter's Church just visible at top left
Image copyright of Leeds Library and Information Services
Image copyright of Leeds Library and Information Services
Taylor's Terrace pictured in 1967
When I was very small I sometimes stayed at my grandmother's house in Taylor's Terrace in Hunslet Carr.
She went to daily mass at St Joseph's R.C. church in Joseph Street and I accompanied her on the walk there from her home. It was on one of these journeys that she pointed out a building saying that she once worked there. I asked her what she worked as and she replied 'putting strings on carrier bags'. Does anyone know where this could have been?
On our walks over Holbeck Moor she once pointed out in the distance a large red brick building which she said was 'The Workhouse'. I can vividly remember her horror of 'finishing up in that place'.
Her house was a tiny back to back. It was immaculately clean. On entering the front door with its mammoth key there was another brown door behind which the stairs went steeply up. The stairs were covered in a stair carpet runner and the bottom four or five stairs were over-covered in a white 'drugget' which could be removed for washing. This was held down by the stair rods.
The room was lit by gas, and a green, glass ornamental contraption would be lowered on a chain from the ceiling for lighting the gas mantle.
At other times the cloths on the table would be completely removed so that the table could be used for baking. This table was pine, almost white due to lots of scrubbing. Everything was so clean. Down the cellar steps into another immaculately clean room which contained a huge washing mangle and tub. There was a window high on the wall and a coal cellar which was filled from a hole up on the pavement outside.
Upstairs there was one double bedroom and one single. The single room had a built in cupboard over the stairs and when opened this cupboard had white moth balls just inside the door. The smell was alarming. I sometimes catch this smell when I am on the bus going into Leeds. Old people's clothes!
Outside there were two stone steps which were regularly donkey-stoned, a Yorkshire stone pavement, a dirt, ash road and through a gate a huge garden. Past the house next door stood the two outside toilets belonging to the four houses. A wooden pine toilet seat which was almost white with scrubbing. Behind the door the squares of newspapers threaded with string hung on a cup hook. There was a key with the wooden cotton bobbin tied onto it with string. All you needed for toiletries in those days.
I loved Grammie's little house.
Elaine Taylor is Gerald Murray's daughter, and was born in 1944 in north Leeds.
The room contained a very large black range and huge mantel shelf, a piano and stool, a large polished sideboard with a beautiful clock and crystal lustres. Next to the range was a Belfast sink with one mean-looking cold tap fastened on the wall over it. A gas ring with two burners stood on a platform next to the sink underneath which was a curtain covering a set-pot which I think was used for boiling water. She lived alone and I remember her sitting in the window on a hard wood chair gazing through the net curtains. In the centre of the room was a large wooden table covered in a heavy, green chenille cloth. A beautiful, white damask table cover would be placed over this at mealtimes. On this would be placed a green glass, tall-stemmed bowl with lid which contained Nestle's condensed milk. For tea we would always have a small Hovis brown loaf sliced and buttered, and tinned mandarin oranges and tinned cream for dessert. Whilst Grammie was mashing the tea over by the gas ring we would pinch a spoonful of Nestle's milk into our mouths while her back was turned. Looking back I do not know why we did not ask if we could do this but in those days you just got what you were given and no more. A large, brown biscuit barrel would then be reached down from the huge fitted cupboard and we would have tea.
The 1932 map shows Taylor's Terrace off Moor Road near Hunslet Lake.
The 1932 map shows Moor Crescent on the north side of Hunslet Moor.
This was a cast iron structure, some two foot six inches square tower and about 10 to 12 feet tall. At about 2 feet above ground was a metal basin and a tap, also a metal cup on a chain, to enable one to get a drink. I have learned recently that these fountains were erected by the Leeds Corporation to allow persons to obtain good clean water to drink. I have seen a commemorative stone, close by, in an open yard used by the Leeds Highways Department stating that plague victims from a row of houses near "The Blooming Rose" public house were buried there. I suppose in the 17th century water was not as clean as now, and most probably would not be treated. The stone is maybe still there in that yard just across Moor Road at the coal staith (see Plague Burial Ground).
I cannot say whether my grandparents had much schooling, but they were intelligent and I enjoyed listening to their stories, as I hope future generations will enjoy my scribblings. Picture granddad sitting in his high backed chair with his jug of "old & mild" on the oven top. He would be cutting thin slices of thick twist tobacco, then putting some into the bowl of his pipe. Lighting it, taking several puffs, and then leaning back. Not a word spoken during this performance which was carried out with great ceremony. Little me sitting on the end of the horsehair padded settee (but I don't think that's its proper name because it had only one end arm. Chaise longue?). It was raining and he said "You see those men, they are going home and it is only 2pm. They cannot work in the rain so they won't get paid for the afternoon. Perhaps when you grow up, builders will be able to put the roof on first, then work on the brickwork." He wasn't quite right but it does happen on office or factory buildings where the metal structure is first erected on the foundations and the cladding can be done after the roof is done.
In the home (2)
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I had the pleasure of spending ten years of my childhood in Hunslet, between 1950 and 1960. My parents and three siblings lived in the now demolished Chambers Street, alongside Donisthorpe Road and off South Accommodation Road. I went to South Accommodation Primary School - I believe a printing factory is currently on this site. Chambers Street (no.3) was a cobblestone street with toilet and dustbin block at the end. Back to back terrace housing, two up two down, coal cellar, scullery and stone sink and cold water only.
Bath time was every Friday night in a long tin bath kept in the cellar, and water heated in kettles on the coal fire. We had gas street lighting and twice daily we had a gas-light man visit to light and extinquish them. Flagstone footpath and no gardens, slate roofs. Washing lines were strung from one side of the street to the other, with clothes props to assist a rare car or lorry visit. Every one was poor, but what a community. I have great memories of bonfire night and the Queen's coronation in 1953. We three boys would visit the nearby Remploys for free haircuts by trainees! And the Lucozade factory in Donisthorpe Street would give us free bottles if one of us should be ill. Chambers Street was opposite Lax and Shaws, a glass making factory, and it was a very short walk to the Tetley brewery and Leeds centre. I remember playing alongside the river Aire watching coal barges towed by horses. My favourite memory is probably of the eve of the Queen's coronation: a lorry reversed in to our primary school yard whilst we were playing and tipped a load of oranges. We were playing in ankle deep fruit and filling our pockets as fast as we were able. Fresh fruit was rare at this time for we locals and was usually reserved for Xmas stockings as a treat. Then we each were handed a round printed tin of toffees with a coloured picture of the Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip. I remember feeling so filled with joy as a five year old. We were then each given a further gift, one that I still treasure to this day, a dimpled beer glass with the royal coat of arms stamped on the face. In 1960 the news came that Chambers Street was to be demolished and our family moved to a council house in Bramley: hot water, indoor toilet, and two gardens - such luxuries. In 1968 I emigrated to Australia but I still return to Leeds annually.
Chambers Street pictured in 1958. No.3 is the second house in
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I was born in 1949 and lived at 3 Orchard Place, off South Accommodation Road. Lax & Shaws (known as "The Glass House" by the locals) was in our street and on South Accommodation Road. I went first to Jack Lane school in 1954 and then attended St Joseph's - infants, juniors and, finally, seniors - on Joseph Street. My family lived all over the Hunslet area. My maternal grandparents (Thomas and Mary Fletcher) lived at 9 Askern Terrace, Penny Hill. My mother worked for a time at the fish canners on Balm Road and a cousin of mine worked at Lightowler's on Joseph Street. My paternal aunt (Mrs Lilly Prentice) lived in Ashley Street, off Pearson Street, not far from The Union pub. My grown-up cousin and I used to go to The Strand picture house in Jack Lane twice a week, and our doctor's (Doctor Oakes) house and surgery was just next door to it. The Prince of Wales pub, on South Accommodation Road, was near where I lived, as was Billy Walton's fish & chip shop, located on the corner near Hunslet Road. The Lucozade factory was on Donisthorpe Street and the river Aire was about 150 yards from our house. There were shops, including a farrier's (now a second-hand motorcycle shop), on both sides of Hunslet Road, stretched out for about two miles - all the way from just past Leeds Bridge to Beetham's pawn shop, near the Anchor pub, opposite Hunslet parish church.
Our house is the third one down in the photo, where the washing can be seen hanging out on the clothes line. The lady on the doorstep, next door at no. 2, is Florrie Jackson, a neighbour. All the eight houses on our side of the street were one up and one down and back to back.
There was a scullery type kitchen in the cellar, complete with set pot (a vessel you put your weekly washing in and filled it with water. It was made of brick and a fire was lit underneath it to heat the water), a fireplace, and a stone sink and cold water tap, with a coal house leading off it.
Orchard Place in 1958
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A setpot: a large cast iron 'cauldron like' pot set in brickwork. The water was heated by a fire lit in the grate which is situated directly beneath the pot. Using the pot is not easy as it stands over four feet high.
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