West Yorkshire market town of Pontefract
 
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Pontefract Memories and Recollections

GROWING UP IN GROVETOWN
PONTEFRACT


PART FIVE

by KEN FOX

As car ownership was something far off in the distant future, our early trips from Grovetown to the seaside were mostly dependent on the club trips organised by nearby Grove Road Angling Club, whose chosen destinations were naturally Bridlington or Scarborough, with a singular excursion to foreign parts, namely Cleethorpes. This proved unpopular due to the long distance to travel by bus and also because although geographically situated on the east coast, as the tide ebbs miles eastward, Cleethorpes promenade appears to drift to the west coast! A seaside town without a seaside didn't seem right to us kids and viewing the sea through a pair of binoculars offered no consolation.

As we got no sleep the previous night due to over excitement, we were always up early and ready to go. Younger brother Alan was guaranteed to throw up even before actually seeing a bus, but then settled down nicely on a fresh empty stomach. The eleven or so buses parked up in a long line from opposite the club entrance on Grove Road well past Ewbanks Liquorice Works towards Slutwell, and were always nosed towards the railway bridge. The first three or four buses were reserved for us kids, while parents rode on the others. Before boarding, we had our obligatory lapel badges attached in case we got separated during our day out, but I suspect that some of the parents were secretly keeping their fingers crossed anyway and perhaps neglected to tie them securely. A few shillings in an envelope as pocket money, a bottle of pop and a packet of crisps were handed out and we were away.

On passing Grovetown we always gave a cheery wave to the kids who were left behind, possibly because their dads were not members of the club. Up Churchbalk, Swanhill, along Southgate and under the three arched bridge then down towards Knottingley roundabout from where we picked up our selected route and a fine sight we must have made from the roadside. Two committee members travelled on each kid’s bus, occupying the seat immediately behind the driver, in theory to take charge of us but, in retrospect, I cannot to this day understand how they could do so as we were not even visible to them due to a stack of full beer crates placed conveniently by their side and part obstructing the gangway. Needless to say these were converted to empties long before we got home.

All too soon the return journey had begun with scores of sleepy heads nodding and swaying in sympathy with the motion of the bus as it wound its long weary way back home. We soon came alive again as we neared Whitley Bridge as this was a cue for a customary sing song with a round or two of 'Ten green bottles' and a solemn 'Now is the hour' before we eventually jumped off the bus to meet up with mams and dads for the short walk home.

Our first full week holiday was spent in a little caravan at Sewerby near Flamborough which we reached by taxi from Grovetown and although the weather was pretty dismal it did not dampen our excitement or enjoyment of this new experience. Flamborough remained our favourite holiday spot for the next few years and was spent in all manner of vans including a converted railway carriage such as you would find on most coastal sights in those days.

One sunny day back home whilst we were looking out of our front bedroom window, we caught sight of a strange object gently threading its way down the cinder track from Oxclose Farm. It was a brightly coloured double decker bus that had been converted at the farm into holiday accommodation and was being hauled by a tow vehicle. We watched in total fascination with Mother and Dad as it disappeared out of sight behind the railway line, but what they did not reveal is that they not only knew its destination but also that they had already hired it for a week’s holiday at Flamborough a few weeks hence. The conversion was rudimentary by today's standard but in those years it was the bees knees for holidaying kids, especially climbing the spiral stairs leading to the upper deck at bedtime and for once we did not need any persuasion.

One morning during the Spring of 1948 we left home for school in Willow Park as usual but afterwards, instead of running homewards down the cinder track from Hardwood Avenue to Grovetown, we carried straight on down the new concrete road and into Chequerfield estate - we had moved home. This house was in Broadway and was built by a firm called Gibsons. The exterior was a sea of mud, bounded by a garden wall but the home itself was a completely new concept to the one we left behind in Grovetown, for this one was spacious, had three bedrooms, running hot water and mains electricity! I well remember Mothers encouragement for us in turn to flick a switch alongside the living room door jamb then watched our eyes light up just as brightly as the bare electric light bulb suspended from the ceiling. No more need to ignite gas mantles with a lighted spill from the open fire, standing with one foot on a chair and a knee on the table top! A mains electric Sobell radio was switched on, playing soft music as if to welcome us home - no need for accumulators! Our first television set did not appear until 1952. An upstairs indoor toilet and a bath with a supply of hot water on tap completed the air of modern luxury whilst the absence of central heating meant nothing to us as it was not generally installed in working class homes of the day.

Incidentally, the name Chequerfield is derived from the tree Sorbus Torminalis, otherwise known as the 'wild service tree' or 'chequer tree' due to the pattern of its fruit, which must have grown abundantly there at some time past.

I was to live in Chequerfield until my marriage to Brenda (nee. Chapman) in 1966 when we moved to King Street for a year or two. Then to Lynwood Crescent and latterly to Brockadale Avenue, from where we finally retired and moved to our present home in Kelso, Scotland, after 61 years in Pontefract. Dad died of the usual miners illnesses in 1984 but Mother sailed on to reach a good old age of 91 and actually died in Halberg House within a couple of hundred yards from her original Grovetown home. Brenda's Mum still lives nearby so we have good reason to return to our native grounds.

We have occasionally climbed Burnley's Hill and in a pensive mood, gazed nostalgically over the valleys which were home and playing fields to us both all those years ago, and needless to say there are many changes. Gone is Grovetown, Bally's Field and Ewbanks Liquorice Works, while Cranky Pin is awash with housing as are the Chequerfields. Nevertheless I must admit that from this vantage point, which I do hope will remain a lofty breathing space of open grassland for future generations to enjoy as we did, the overall vista is quite pleasant on a warm sunny day.

Pease's field is still there and the avenue tree planting schemes that struggled so hard to establish themselves against vandalism in the early years have finally matured and even offer a rural atmosphere to the overall picture when in full leaf. Naturally, a more permanent feature that will forever mean homeland to me, as I have previously related, is the crowned tower of St. Giles’ who after two hundred and thirty odd years still watches over all from its own more prominent vantage point.

Working class areas such as Grovetown usually attract a negative stigma and I know people who decline to admit having been brought up in such back streets. I, for one, remain proud of my working class roots and treasure the fond memories of my early years there with my family and pals, and often recall them along with the sweet scents and aromas that always seem to accompany all good visual memories. Grovetown village, amidst its rural location, yet so near to a busy town, was indeed a unique community.

Ken Fox, 2006


Further articles from Ken Fox:

Growing up in Grovetown Part One
Growing up in Grovetown Part Two
Growing up in Grovetown Part Three
Growing up in Grovetown Part Four


 

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