See first page for introduction.
My Family, Grandparents, Childhood, School Days, The Teenage Years, Getting Married, Emigrating,
Food, Houses, Household Practices, Clothing, Cotton Mills, Buildings, Shops, Ashton Market,
Hurst Cross, Transport, Entertainment, Wartime, Weather, Daisy Nook, Special Times of the Year,
People, Various Other Memories, Expressions & Sayings.
There must have been hundreds of people lived in such a small area, all the little streets in Charlestown, then the streets going off Oldham Road,. Wonder what it was like? The Empire as I knew it wouldn't have been there then, nor the Theatre Royal. Probably just pubs, though there was some kind of a music hall on the corner of Old Street and Delamere Street, I think. I know there were quite a few lodging houses there at that time... if only we could go back, just for one day! I wonder how much the rents costs in those days? When I was born, back in 1932, my dad was on about 16 shillings a week working as a mule spinner in the cotton mill and that had to feed and clothe 11 of us. Makes you wonder doesn't it?
Charlestown houses were demolished around 1937. We lived there until December 18th 1936. The houses were condemned. Everyone moved up to Hurst and Smallshaw. I haven't a clue when the houses were built in Charlestown, but my mother was born there and she would have been 112 now.
From the right hand side of Warrington Street going in from the Town Hall, there were three streets running through to Delamere Street North. They were Germyn St, Tatton St, and Gosford St. After them, further down, and behind what was Sewells chippy, left hand side of Warrington St were rows of houses. They were Pitt St, York St, Duncan St, Peel St, Canning St.
All these streets behind Sewells were knocked down but, after we left in 1936, Germyn St, Tatton St and Gosford St were not. The only thing standing were the school clinic, and a little cottage next door to it with a small garden, which was near Oldham Road end. The rest was a spare ground with the cobble stoned roads where the houses had been. It was a long time after that, Tatton St and Germyn St were demolished and the bus station and precinct and high rise flats were built.
All the Charlestowners had to go for a bath before going into the council houses, and families had to move out for a few hours while the home and furniture were fumigated, to make sure you didn't take bugs into the new house. There were lots of laughter about it, though. You heard people say, "It's bleedin' comin' to summat when yer told you 'ave to 'ave a bleedin' bath!" I think they must have had a list of everyone in the family because everyone had to go. Still, I suppose it were better than having to stand naked in a line and the hose put on you. People went to the one inside the old railway goods yard, facing what was Wilsons bakery. And even after they moved, two people from the housing used to come round to the council houses every so often and scrape the walls looking for bugs. We called them the bug hunters. Such was life back then but in more ways than one, better than it is now.
Times did change after the old houses were demolished. No more borrowing a bucket of coal from your neighbours, no more borrowing half a crown till your old man got paid his coppers, no rag and bone man you could buy clothes off, no more getting food on't tic. No more listening to next door having a set to when the old man came home a bit worse for wear, and no matter how much he battered the Mrs, she never left him. "He's not a bad owd bugger," she would say. I wonder if now I could live so close to another family. So close, you could here them peeing in the bucket upstairs at night! Aye, I think I could. They were what you called neighbours, and lucky if they got to Ashton Wakes, never mind Spain, and yet they were happy with their lot.
Other parts of Ashton
(After we were married) I lived round the corner from the chemist on Glebe Street. There were only three houses standing on there. It was facing St Mary's School yard. Wimpole St was just round the corner from us. The other side of Glebe Street, over Penny Meadow, still had all the houses standing but I didn't know any of the people there. Right down past the houses going towards St Michael's, a clinic was built there. I think Cross Glebe Street was there once.
I think for warmth in winter, you couldn't beat those little cottages, could you? The only thing I didn't like was the outside toilet. The house was facing St Mary's School. At first I thought we had done the wrong thing because the railway lines were on the end of the street and it seemed so noisy, but after a couple of weeks we didn't notice it. Also some of the signs hanging from the shops on Penny Meadow drove us mad squeaking when it was windy, but we got used to it!
Ashton Moss didn't have houses then, it was all fields and market gardens. We used to go on there for games from school. I think the first lot of houses built on there were around the middle forties. I know that because I was in the third class at Christ Church and was about 13 then, and I remember the guys working on the houses whistling at our teacher who would only be about 23 at that time. She used to blush like L. She got herself married while I was in her class.
The old gas meters used to tickle me. You had to feed them with pennies. I loved that job as a kid, putting the penny in the slot, and our mothers got all excited when the gas man came to empty it (that's if some of the desperate people didn't break in and empty it themselves). The man would empty all the pennies out on the table, count it into shilling piles and always gave a bit of a rebate back. I don't know how he worked it, maybe just the coppers that didn't make a shilling up. It only cost about a penny to top yourself in those days.
I remember the abattoir. I went down Union St a lot to play. My eldest sister, who had a daughter 18 months older than me and a daughter 18 months younger than me, lived in Union St facing the church. She lived there from her early married days back in around 1926 and until the houses were demolished. Then when her youngest, Rita, was married she got a house to rent on Eaton Terrace, so I was still always knocking about round there. (The girls though never called me 'auntie' - it was always 'our Lily'.) Union St as well ran right down to where I said I cut through to get onto Albermarle Terrace or Street, [lol] near Turner Lane. The funny thing, though, which I was thinking about, was the numbers. It seems to me that Albemarle numbers began on the Penny Meadow end and Union St numbers must have began at the Turner Lane end. My sister lived in the last block of Union St and her number was 95, yet they both went the same way. Oh well, I guess we will never know.
I think it must have been a god send when families moved into council houses from the old cottages. That was one hell of a job, having to black lead the old fire places, down on their knees. I remember the fireplaces in the council houses. They were all the same everywhere you went, a blue and white mottled, one big oven and one small one. There was a door above the fire as well. Why, I don't know, because only the flue was behind it. It was great in winter though, there was a kind of tray below the oven that you could rest your cooking pot on as you took it from the oven, and in winter I used to open the oven door and sit on the tray. It was lovely and warm. My mother used to say, "You will end up with a bad back!" But I never did. I wonder if any of those ranges are still going? I know when I was there in 1986, the council were modernising all the houses round Hurst and Smallshaw. People were moving into caravans until they were finished.
I reckon the council made a good job of revamping the council homes. The ones I went in, and I went in quite a few, were great. Ours, for instance, where I was brought up. It was a four bedroomed home with a very small kitchen and a small bathroom, downstairs. After it was redone, it was made into a three bedroomed, the fourth bedroom was made into a bathroom, and the kitchen, bathroom and coal cellar was made into one large kitchen. Lots of bench space, room to move round. It wasn't before time either, just fifty years after we moved in 1936. The people I spoke to were quite proud of their kitchens. Still, it's everyone to their own taste, but I loved them!
I always thought how I would have hated living on Queens Road, I remember going along on the buses and being able to see what they were having for tea. You could see the wardrobes upstairs! I know I shouldn't have been looking but I was always a bit of a sticky beak. The left side going from Hurst Cross was OK, they had small gardens. Imagine all those buses stopping right outside your house, but I suppose they were used to it. There's one good thing about it, they wouldn't get wet alighting the bus if they lived there. They would have been inside, put the kettle on and brewed up before the bus left!
There doesn't seem to be much left now of the old Ashton, does there? Down near the baths were just streets and streets of old two up and downers, now it looks like all flats have been built. The old buildings had to come down though, didn't they, otherwise they would have fallen down. At the time, they were built to last and last they did. I was thinking only the other day that in around twenty five years, the council houses in Hurst and Smallshaw will have been there for a hundred years, and not long after so will the houses on Ashton Moss. They were building the ones on the Moss when I was going to Christ Church school.
Remember the leatherette people used to stick on their walls? Some used to put it all the way round, just half way up. It made the room look real dark and dismal as it mainly came in dark brown and bottle green. We had just one wall done about a quarter of the way up in Lees Road. It was the wall nearest the door in the living room, because whenever our friends came to see if we were going out to play, we would ask them in and they always stood next to that wall with their hands behind their back, and somehow that wall always got dirty fingermarks on it, so it was easy to wipe down!
I only knew it as leatherette. When we went into our home after being wed, every time I cooked, half way along the staircase walls went damp. My husband fathomed it out, someone had put this stuff half way up the staircase wall and then covered it with wallpaper, probably too lazy to scrape it off. The steam must have been getting trapped between it.
Back then, not many people could afford to wallpaper. Money people who lived in big houses had wallpaper, it was very heavy stuff embossed and very expensive. The poor folk used to distemper their walls. It was awful - if you brushed against the wall your clothes would be full of it.
When I was a kid, most people used distemper on their walls, all during the war and after. As time went on some bird brain thought of dressing it up a bit, which was to dip a sponge in a different coloured distemper and dab it all over the freshly painted walls. Then someone else thought of another idea, take a piece of felt, cut patterns it, stick it around a roller, roll it in a different colour distemper and roll it in lines up the wall. Right fancy it were, the rollers came in different widths depending on how wide a pattern you wanted.
I remember our house being distempered cream and the green patterns running in lines. We thought it were real posh. Also, no one could afford a carpet. They had coconut matting instead. They put linoleum, known as oilcloth, down first, right up to the skirting boards, then lay the matting on top leaving the edges of the linoleum showing. It was hopeless. There wasn't any vacuum cleaners back then so it had to swept. I'm sure most of the dust went in between the matting. Not many had full length curtains either. Most women could crochet and made their own curtains. If you look at pics of the old terraced houses you can see the crocheted curtains.
Only the money people had wallpaper back then. What with the distemper and coconut matting carpet with oilcloth surrounding it, the front and back doorsteps donkey stoned, not forgetting the window sill, and curtains home made out of calico then dyed. We were all... right posh! In case you young ones ask what's oilcloth, it's another name for linoleum.
I think England's come on in leaps and bounds. Nearly everyone owns their own homes now, not like years ago when most paid rent, a big family living in a two bedroomed home. Kids have their own space now. People aren't depressed like they used to be. They are a lot prouder these days. You only have to look at the photo blog to see the change in Ashton alone. Gone are all the old houses, new ones built, I think its a great place to live!
People are much better off there than they have ever been. I only have to look at my family for instance. My nieces and nephews, they all own their own homes. Years ago that wasn't possible, it was only for the rich. If you were poor you were kept poor. I only remember two in school that had their own houses. Connie from Woodlands Road and David from the houses near Plants Garage, the rest were in council or two up and downers Hope St area.
I'm going off the way people live there now, and how its changed since I lived there. People are able to buy their own homes, go abroad for holidays, two and three cars in the driveway, money to update their homes. Yes, sure they have to work to be able to do these things but, going off when I started work, and although things were cheaper, we hadn't a dog's chance of owning anything. I could have walked all round Ashton back in the 50s and not seen one car outside someone's home. Today they seem to have a better lifestyle. The schools are better equipped. So something's changed somewhere for the better, though I must add because of birth control they don't have the big families our parents had. I think things started to slowly change back in the late 50s. That's when couples started to put deposits on a homes before being wed, where before, you went into lodgings with whoever would have you. Unless you were lucky, some old person died and their rented house become available.
I remember the old irons as well. We had two of them going together, one in the fire, one being used. We put the iron into what I knew as a silver coloured slipper, and we would use a tea towel to grip the handle of the iron so it didn't burn our hands.
When you think back to those days! My mother used to clear the table, which was wooden, and lay the shirts out on it to scrub the collars. I hated to arrive home from school and see her doing that - not because I felt sorry for her. God forgive me, but because my tea wasn't anywhere near ready as I could see. I hated that. All I wanted was the aroma of a good meal cooking. My mother would say, "I'm making potato pie, I only have to put the crust on. It wont take many minutes," and I would moan and say "oh no, that will take forever!" I felt I would have to wait hours. I liked to go home from school and find the tea ready for serving up. My mam used to call me Hungry Horace. Oh God, how I hated Monday. Not to say, I had already had a hot dinner and sweet at school. When I look back now on how hard it was for our parents, I realise what a selfish little swine I was, and how easy our lives have been made. But most of the time she would have something cooking in the oven.
We had a rack in Glebe Street, it was there when we bought the house, and a very old fireplace - the ones with the mantels high up, but we had it knocked out and a tiled one put in. We were going to have the rack removed as well but we had so much to do we didn't get round to it, then my son was born. You know what the old ones used to say, "new house new baby." I was so thankful I didn't have the rack moved because it was fantastic for the nappies when it rained. It had about three knots in the ropes and a hook on the wall by the side and I could lower or higher it. Just hook the knot under the hook. It was great. I felt like singing "anchors aweigh" every time I highered or lowered it!
Another thing I did there as well, was... wash all his woollies by hand, lay them out on greaseproof paper then fold the paper over the top, and lay them under the rug that was across the fireplace! They were dry in no time and didn't need ironing because of us walking over them all the time. Nor did they ever lose their shape!
I don't know that anyone gave me that tip. I think I thought it up myself but it worked a treat. Another thing I did as well with Karen's pleated skirts and gymslips, I would sit and put long tacking stitches in every pleat, suddle them through in the sink, hang them out to dry, press them, then draw the tacking stitches out. They always looked so nice. It used to pain me when she outgrew things and I gave them away to see them next time on some kids minus the pleats. Just thrown in the washing machine after I had taken so much care. Funnily enough, I have a couple of pleated skirts I wear in winter but they always go to the cleaners. I haven't the same patience now.
When I was a kid, we had a gas stove and a fire to heat the water, an iron that we warmed on the fire. We had an old wireless that crackled like no nobody's business. We baked in the oven by the side of the fire and heated water for washing in a gas boiler.
I remember my mam, she used to screw all yesterday's newspapers up, put it in the fire grate, then lay the wood on top, and a few pieces of coal or coke. Then put the blower as she called it in front and another piece of newspaper in front of that. Once the fire got going, she would pull a little iron ring down that hung down from the chimney that she called a drawer with the poker, and that made the heat go into the pipes that led to the cistern in the bathroom to heat the water.
Also by doing that, it stopped the fire from flaming up. It would go like red embers so it was easy to do the toast for breakfast on it. During the day when the water wasn't being used, it used to get to boiling point and made a hell of a racket. My mother would ask us to run the hot water off for a few minutes then the noise would stop.
As a kid, I spent many hours sat inside the cupboard where the cistern was, especially in winter. There were so many of us it was hard to get near the fire and my brothers and sisters were all older than me and bigger. I hadn't a dog's chance. I would go fast asleep in there with my head resting on a towel leant on the cistern. They always knew if I was missing where I was... awww !
I used to rub my babies' gums with Nurse Sykes cooling powder when they began teething, then a few grains of the powder in their last feed. I never had one sleepless night. Not every night - mostly if they were a bit niggly, chewing their fists. I never read the instructions, I just did what everyone else did. I told my daughter when she had Christopher to rub a teaspoon of borax on his head to stop cradle cap, and she did, (well I did as she lived with us at that time). She told one of her friends who asked her doctor if that was OK. He said no, under no terms, so she bought all these oils for her baby but I think everyone in Ashton used borax. In fact I use it once a month now to get without hairspray. It works a treat. My hairdresser used it, when I lived over there.
I bet you can still get some of the old remedies... fullers earth ointment, drawing ointment for boils, molasses - I don't know what that was for, but remember my mam heating it and then spreading on a bit of white cloth, wind and water pills, belladonna plasters, Fords pills, Seidlizt powders, knitbone... Most of these worked. I once was walking along a garden fence and tripped and fell on the flagstones and hit my forehead. My friend took me into her house and her dad put a penny on the the bump and wrapped a bandage round it, and said I could keep the penny. I don't know know if it did any good to the bump or if he just did it to stop me crying, as a penny would certainly have shut me up!
My mother always had this thing and we called it a poncher... I don't know if that was just a slang name for it, because somewhere in the back of my mind I seem to recall something about it being called a dolly. I loved to ponch the clothes as a youngster, watching all the soap suds, then turning the handle on the mangle. I did hear it called a poss.
I was changing the bed this morning, stripped the sheets off, popped them into the washing machine, went to the linen cupboard got a clean set of sheets and pillow cases out and made the bed, and said to myself, "there, that didn't take long did it?" And, for reasons unknown, I started to think back to when I was a kid. It would have taken my mother a full morning to do that. She would have had to heat the water up first, strip the bed, fill the dolly tub with hot water, put the sheets in and start ponching at them, then rub soap into them and rub them up and down against the rubbing board, then put them into rinsing water, put them through the mangle, and if it wasn't raining, carry them outside to hang out, If it was raining, then they would have to be dried on a line inside, everyone ducking under them, getting slapped in the face with a wet sheet.
How times have changed! And what about people who only had one set of sheets per bed? They used to take the bottom sheet off for washing, put the top sheet to the bottom, and just wash the one bottom sheet, and if it was raining, the washed sheet would be slung over the fire guard to dry as quickly as possible. As my mam would have said, "we don't know we are born today." For you younger ones, it would have been your grandma that went through this, not your mums. There was many an accident as well, people slipping on the wet floor, water splashed everywhere.
At one time not many people had the mattresses we know. They had what was known as a flock or a feather bed mattress. The feathers or flocks were put into a striped cover know as a tick. It was a day's work to clean them, first the tick had to be unstitched at one end and the flocks or feathers whichever you had were emptied out onto the bedroom floor which was in those days mostly oilcloth, or as they call it now, linoleum. The tick was washed and dried then the flocks or feathers all had to be put back in. What a job that was! Then the tick had to be sewn up again, but before being sewn, powder was sprinkled into it. I'm not sure what it was it could have been DDT. Then after that the mattress had to be laid across the bed and massaged to get the flocks or feathers all even. Give me my mattress any day, its much easier!
I remember the tea leaves being throw onto the carpets (to keep the dust down when you swept them). Didn't they have some funny ways back then? Yet these things seemed to work.
Life years ago was very hard for women. Everything is made easier now. Also, women had more children than we do. They really hadn't a choice, so no time to go to the hairdressers, that's if they ever had the money to go. They had to be content to put on a pinny every day, scrape their hair up in a hairnet, then get down to washing in the dolly tub. No washing machines, no microwaves, no televisions, no vacuums, nothing to make things one bit easier, so is it any wonder they looked old? They flogged from getting up to going to bed. Last thing at night would be putting the lunches up for the next day, then up again at 6 am to light the fire to make toast before getting the rest of the family up. Most didn't have electricity, just a gas light. The man of the house went out to work and that was his job. The wife took care of everything else.
These days if your washing machine or vacuum breaks down its almost as bad as having a death in the family. We should be thankful we have time to spend on ourselves. The first thing we bought apart from the bedroom suite was a washing machine. We lived with my parents for a while and my mother wouldn't use the machine. She didn't think it could get the clothes clean as when you scrubbed them, and to be honest it doesn't. I always soak my washing and rub at it before putting in my machine. The washing years ago were a credit to our parents and grandparents, to see the lovely white sheets blowing on the lines that had been washed by hand.
The Ashton Reporter came in handy, didn't it? One half spread over the table before the rent man came Saturday morning, then half of it cut into squares and string put through then hung on a nail in the toilet. Then when it had done its time on the table, that half was screwed up to light the fire. Every house you went in were the same, then everyone got posher with the old rexine. It was easier to dust the crumbs off than the newspapers. do you remember the coconut matting they used to lay on the floors? When it was swept all the dust went through the holes!
My job at night was filling my mother's hot water bottle. I remember it was a red one and I used to press it against my body to let the air out before screwing the top on and, nearly every time, I would have filled it too full and the water would splurt out onto my tummy! I would have been nine or ten at that time, which would have been 1942, but I'm sure we would have been one of the last to have bought them. They were probably out years before that. We kids used to have the stone bottles that we could buy ginger ale in. You were really supposed to take them back to the shop and get a refund on them, but they were ideal as hot water bottles. Also, if all else failed, we would wrap an oven shelf in an old towel!
I loved the scots plaid pleated skirts we wore as kids. They were wrapped around with a plain panel at the front and fastened on the waist with a tiny leather strap and buckle. Along the side of the panel they fastened with a long safety pin, and were well below the knee. I remember the navy blue and bottle green drawers we used to wear to school. When I think of the knickers then and what they are today, I can't believe it. You could make a good catapult with these now. It's a wonder they don't get lost!
Speaking of dirndle skirts, I remember the first ones I got. I was fifteen and they were all the rage, but I couldn't afford any. However, my best friend's (who had heaps of clothes) dad died, and she wanted to buy flowers herself for him, so asked me if I would buy two dirndle skirts off her. She said she felt terrible asking for money, as she was always so good with me, giving me things from us being kids. I asked her how much she wanted, she said, "does one and six each sound too much?" I said "no, but I haven't got three bob right now." So her mum said, "Well look, I will put the money up for you and you can pay me sixpence a week back." I was thrilled about it, all dolled up I was with my skirt and Jane Russell blouse and my sling back white canvas shoes when I went to the dance hall. I used to wash then whiten those shoes every Saturday afternoon and, if it was fine, put them on the window sill outside to dry. It took me ages to pay that three bob off.
My fingers were red raw cutting old coats up to make pegged rugs. We had a big box full of buttons when we'd done,
From fourteen I thought I was too old to go out showing my new clothes (at Whitsun), and in fact I got my new ones for Easter because I was a working girl, but my brother was five years younger than me so I had to take him round to show his new clothes. I would have my curling pins in and a turban on ready to go out that night, and would say to my brother, you go in and I will stand at the gate, but tell them I'm here. So he would say, "our Lily's stood at the gate," and someone would come out and say, "come on in, what are you standing there for?" I knew it would happen and I knew I would get money. Well, sixpence was sixpence in anybody's money, wasn't it? I only needed four to get in the local dance hall!
When I see kids going by our house now to the school up the road, I think, "Oh God, what must I have looked like with my turban on?" They look so young, yet I thought I was so grown up!
Me and my mate, Maud Briggs left school in December 1946. We were both bought clogs and little ankle socks to go to work at the Clarence Mill, Clarence Street, Stalybridge. I remember like it was yesterday. My socks were blue. I had to have them matching my overall..
The clogs were terrible to break in. We had blisters on our heels, the leather was so stiff. My dad used to rub the edges with vaseline to try and soften them. We got clogs from Greenwoods, Penny Meadow. And yes, we used to run along the edge of the kerb to make sparks!
And, oh my goodness, the cloggy boggys! We felt we were 6ft tall. The snow would build up so much between the irons on the soles. Talk about rock and roll. My parents could always tell when I was home by the kicking against the house wall trying to get without the cloggy boggys before going in.
One thing I hated about wearing clogs was if the iron fell off and the wooden bottom split, every time you put your foot down your flesh got caught in the split..... Ouch! It did hurt, that! I remember the clogs with the rubber soles. I think it would have been around 1945 when they came out.
I recall my four older sisters. I remember at that time the 30s two piece suits were fashionable. They called them costumes, most worn with a high necked blouse, with maybe a brooch at the neck, mostly the cameo brooches. And they wore the suede court shoes with them. Nylons with the seam up the back. There was quite a lot of crepe dresses too, some with the sweetheart neck. Also the heavy cotton dresses with pleats from the hips. Also twin sets were in fashion. I remember kids wore a lot of tartan skirts, with woollen jumpers. The skirts were pleated at the back, then a plain panel that wrapped over at the front and had a big fancy pin to hold it together. There were a lot of organza dresses for kids as well, that was worn with frilly knickers - not for us though! And of course the ladies camisoles. Also let's not forget the hair style... wind sweeps!
I remember the bloomers. Women used to put their lisle stockings on up to their knees, put a garter on and then pull the knickers leg over the top. Them bloomers were a lot better than the ones they wear these days. It looks like their bum is eating their kecks. It won't be long until they are wearing no knickers at all! I tell you what, passion killers or not, a lot more babies were born back when bloomers were the go. It didn't seem to put the men off!
I don't think our kids know what an apron is. The principle use of an apron was to protect the dress underneath, but along with that it served as a pot holder for removing hot pans from the oven. It was wonderful for drying tears and on occasions used to clean out dirty ears. From the chicken coop, aprons were used to carry eggs, fussy chicks and sometimes half hatched eggs to be finished in the warming oven. When company came, those aprons were ideal hiding places for shy kids,. And when it was cold, grandma wrapped it around her arms.
Those big aprons wiped many a perspiring brow bent over the hot wood stove. Chips and kindling wood were brought into the kitchen in that apron. From the garden it carried all sorts of vegetables. After peas had been shelled it carried out the hulls. In the fall, that apron was used to bring apples in that had fallen from the tree. When unexpected company drove up the road, it was amazing how much furniture that apron could dust in seconds. When dinner was ready, grandma stood on the porch, waved that apron and the men knew it was time to come in from the fields for dinner. It will be a long time before anyone can replace that old old time apron that served so many purposes! I bet there was a few snotty noses wiped on the old apron!
Remember, grandma used to set her hot baked apple pies on the window sill to cool. Her granddaughters set theirs on the kitchen counter to thaw!
There were always canvas sling back shoes on our window ledge outside. Every weekend without fail, I used to whiten them. They had a wooden wedge heel covered in the canvas as well. After a while it would break through and the heel fall out. Terrible tragedy if you were in the dance hall, especially if a lad came to ask you for a dance. It was worse than Tiny Tim tiptoeing through the tulips! I bet the poor lads thought we were cripples, like one leg shorter than the other!
In around 1947 the new look came out - much longer clothes than we were used to. Then came the costume with the pencil skirt with long jacket, really beautiful they were. Then came the three quarter reversible jackets, beige one side brown the other, then came boucle. I see that's back again now... I had a lovely green suit, mixed with little flecks of black and red and a red knitted collar, really smart. I wore red high heels and had a red box handbag. Then came the raindrop material. I had a suit made in blue of that, a very tiny speck of silver in it.
Working in the Cotton Mills
Yes, I remember the cotton mills. I was a doffer, pronounced dauffer. I didn't know myself until I saw it spelt. Then I became a ring spinner. You wouldn't get better people anywhere than mill workers. They called a spade a spade. Had the best sense of humour. One thing about working in the mill was, if you had an argument with the overlooker, you could go out at dinnertime, walk to the next mill, ask for a job and go back and give your notice in. It was that easy.
I started work at age 14 at the Clarence Mill, Clarence St, facing the Stamford Park, in 1946. First the Clarence, then onto the Ray, then over to the Waterside, then to the Tower. Then, by that time, I was 18 and went to the Wellington Mill, Whitelands Road, and stayed till it closed in 1963. We had some good times there.
I left school on a Friday 19th December 1946. My 14th birthday was next day. I started work on the Monday. We only worked three days before they closed for Christmas. I wasn't quite five foot I don't think. I got a vee necked pinny from off Ashton Market and it was miles too long for me, so I took it to a neighbour to turn up. She was a hefty woman and couldn't bend so she told me to stand on the table. She cut about six inches off then turned it up, giving it a big hem in case I grew before it was ready to throw out. I think she charged a shilling for that, and off I went wearing new clogs and blue ankle socks. I remember one of the old ladies there saying to me that first day, "Eeh lass, it wont be long afore you lose them rosie cheeks!"
My first weekly wage as a learner doffer was the grand total of one pound eight and sixpence. The hours were seven thirty till five thirty with an hour for lunch. I got five bob back odd money, or spends as they call it now. Oh boy, did I feel like the cat who got the cream! Once we had learnt the job we got three pounds ten shilling but my spends stayed the same. In 1963, just before the mill closed, we were on piecework and my wage varied between thirteen and fourteen pounds.
Yes, it's a pity no one took my photo that first day at work! By the time I got home my ankle socks were stuck to my feet with blood. The clogs had rubbed my ankles. My dad rubbed some kind of oil on the edges of the clogs to soften the leather. We had to work a week in hand so the first three days I worked before the mill closing down for Christmas, I didn't get paid, but my mam gave me half a crown oddy. I was thrilled to bits with that. I took my young brother to the Roxy and paid for him. After I got my wage paid, I got five shilling odd money. There were no such thing as boarding at home. You had to take your wage packet home unopened. I remember the union man coming in every pay day. It was threepence a week we had to pay. I used to feel guilty opening my wage packet to pay him.
There's a school just down the road from, me and when I see the fourteen year olds going by, I look and think, work must be the furthest thought from their minds. But then my mother worked part time school and work in the mill at ten years old. I got to be quite a little business woman once my foot was in the door. I used to go to the pie shop every dinner time and I charged a penny extra for any of the men and women who wanted me to get theirs. I used to go round with a pencil and paper taking their orders, then I ran a perm club for Shirley's hairdressers and chose between a free perm costing a pound or the pound. Then I sold stamps for the wine shop in the Market Avenue. Got commission for that as well!
I think they called the things going back and forward shuttles, and yes, they made a hell of a noise, didn't they? We used to whistle if we were away from anyone and wanted to catch their eye. I learnt to put my fingers in my mouth to whistle, or you would shout at the top of your voice, "HEY UP!"
When we went on a day trip to Blackpool we always sang on the coach, or charabang some of the oldies called it. There was always a little ditty we come up with, "Ashton's on a level, Oldham's on a brew, if you want a sweetheart, come to the Wellington Mill. The dublers they are pretty, the winders they are fair, but none can beat the dauffers, although they curse and swear." Mind you, if you were a winder or whatever then it was you who couldn't be beat!
It was a foregone conclusion that I was going to go to work in the cotton mill, as did my four older sisters. I didn't think that was right. I thought I should choose my own job, so one night I voiced my opinion. I said, "I don't want to work in the mill. I want to be a hairdresser." Eeh, I'm not kidding, it was worse than Oliver Twist asking for more. Everybody looked at me and said, "WHAT?" However, as you can see, I had to do as I was told, but I did get to do hair. Every Friday afternoon all the girls asked me to put their curling pins in and later rollers. I never got paid though.
The men spent a lot of time in between the alleys in their bib and brace. Some of the blokes would just throw the tea leaves out of their pot and put fresh tea in and brew up again without washing it. Do you remember them white and blue pint pots?
I hated putting travellers on. The first finger on my right hand, the nail never grew through that, fiddly little things they were. I hated it when I was put onto something new, and all the bobbins in the creel ran out at once. I loved my knife and piker though, and no I never swore. We wasn't allowed to swear at home so it was better I didn't swear at all in case I slipped up at home! One or two of them swore but it wasn't that bad.
I remember one day, I was sat in the toilets with a girl. She was having a cigarette and I didn't smoke then. Her mother worked in the same room as us and didn't know she smoked. All of a sudden the door opened and she said, "Here, grab this!" and shoved the ciggie in my hand. It was her mother who walked in, and she looked at me and said, "Wait till I see your mam, I'll tell her about you smoking!" I couldn't say anything. I didn't want to get the girl in trouble, but I couldn't wait to get home that day and tell my mam what happened. She said, "Well, I'm glad you told me. I will be waiting for that one to come and tell me." She did tell my mam. Bumped into her at the shops, then went home and gave her daughter a bashing. I felt terrible but it was either her daughter or me!
I think where I worked were Mather and Platt frames. We had about four fitters worked all the time with us from there. Oldham, I think it was. We had some good times with them. They came to all the dos we had. I often wonder where they all are now. One was putting a chain on the end of my frame. It ran inside the frame end and ran kind of round a wheel with teeth in. We were going on piecework and it had a clock on it. He was busy chatting with me and put his finger between the teeth. It ripped it in half. There were blood everywhere. Oh god, it was awful. I bet every time he looks at his finger he remembers me. He was off work ages with it.
I think some of the old names changed by the time I got into the cotton mill. Like reelers, jinnys and mule spinning. In my day there were ring spinners, doffers, winders, beamers, card tenters and doublers weavers. The room I worked in first as a doffer then a ring spinner was the ring spinning room, but the room itself were always known as the mule room, as once there were mule frames in there.
I can't though imagine a FILLER having anything to do with filling bobbins, because that's what we all did apart from the weavers. The cotton came from the card room on bobbins to us, then we spun it onto bobbins again, then it went to the winders. The winders wound it onto what was known as cheeses, I think, and so it went on becoming stronger cotton through each process, until it got to the weavers. So in all we were all bobbin fillers!
My dad was classed as a minder. It just meant you looked after the frames or machines. He worked in the mule room. Them particular frames run backward and forward so you would be walking backward and forward all day long. They always had a piecer to help, which would be a woman. If the ends broke from the bobbins she would piece them together again... He was a right one, my dad. There was a Chesters ale pub near where he worked and he would go in at times. He reckons Chester ale drove you mad. He said he had known folk who drank it who would go home after a few pints, throw their dinner in the dust bin and eat the plate!
I wonder if the knocker upper asked his wife to keep his side of the bed warm till he got back from disturbing all those good folk who were nice and warm in their beds. I bet he got called some names in his time. I once went to stay with my sister in Moss St while her husband was in hospital. I was around 17 at the time. The knocker upper came every morning, but I never heard him. She did, and answered him then turned over and went back to sleep. Then about tenish she would wake up with a start, look at the clock then shout, "Come on, Lily! I have overslept again!" I would be charging along Park Parade and then Whitelands Road at around 11 am. Was I ever glad to get back home again? Even if my mother had to drag me out of bed. At least I got to work on time!
I remember all the mills in Ashton. Worked at a few of them. I worked at the Atlas on evenings after my two children were born. The Rock and Atlas was in the Waterloo area and the Texas were down on Whitelands Road. Next door to that was the Waterside Mill, years ago know as Mellors. Then further down Whitelands Road was the Wellington Mill, then the Ashton Knitting Company next door. Then carrying on down Whitelands brought you out at Clarence St which came under Stalybridge. The Clarence Mill was on there, also the Ray Mill, and the Premier and the Victor mills. Then along Clarence St bringing you on to Park Road, coming under Dukinfield, was the Tower Mill, Bowker and Balls and Park Road Spinning Company.
Mills everywhere you looked... Then there was the Cavendish Mill on Cavendish St which I believe still stands and has been converted into flats, the Cedar Mill was in Hurst. Also Whittaker's Mill, but that was taken over by Whitbread s Brewery, many moons ago.
Whittakers Mill, Hurst. (Tameside Image Archives)
They kept german prisoners in Whittaker's Mill during the war. They used to walk up Lees Road under heavy guard a few times a week, I suppose to give their legs some exercise. Then Whitbread s took over afterwards. There was also a handbags works by the side of Whittaker's, belonged to a chinaman, I think. It was Sharps handbag works! Where the L did I get the chinaman from? [lol] But he could have been a manager. He lived on Woodlands Road in private houses. They lay at the back of Lees Road. I can't seem to remember his name, but feel it was Ling. He certainly did work there. Never wore workman's clothes, always a suit and drove a car which in those days were far and few between. Perhaps that's why I thought he owned the joint!
I loved it when it was foggy. Working in the mill you couldn't spin the cotton because the fog got onto it. It showed up in the weaving if you did, so we got sent home. Very hard though to find our way home along Tame Valley. A gang of us would walk together and call in one of the pubs when we got to Ashton, just for a drink and a breather. I suppose now it's all smokeless zones. It isn't like it was. My husband used to walk in front of his workmate's car with a torch, all the way from Ferranti in Hollinwood. Called at nearly every pub. He'd be almost slewed when he arrived home!
I was working at the Waterside Mill next door to the Texas when the Queen Mother visited as the Queen then. The King wasn't with her. We were all allowed to go and see her. I remember thinking how beautiful her skin was, my friend Brenda and I nearly fainted when she smiled at us. We were so close to her! She walked in between the two mills to go and visit the nursery which was shared by the two mills. We were just about 16 at that time. I have seen the Queen and Phil here twice.
I worked at the Cedar Mill. I was a spinner. There wasn't any weaving looms there. The first room was the card room, the second ring spinning, the third was the winding room, and I think the beamers was the next one up. The mills that had weavers, the looms were in sheds attached to the mill itself. The Wellington Mill down on Whitelands Road, where I worked before being married, had weaving sheds. And yes, it was a very old mill, the Cedar. I don't think anything was done to it from it being built. The Wellington was very modern. We did a lot of lip reading because of the noise, though you did get used to it after a couple of days.
Yes its true, the steps were worn down in the middle but then lifts were put in most of the mills. I loved working there. You wouldn't find more honest hard working people and may I add happy. Some of the men and women still worked in their seventies, and didn't think twice at giving us young ones a belt over the lugs if we gave cheek. I can remember quite well!
I never knew anyone to be sickened by working in the cotton mill, though I'm sure there must have been. I worked in it from being fourteen to coming here when I was thirty eight, except for about a year all told having my two kids. Even so, in those days no one sued anyone. If you were sick you were sick, whether it be the job or not. The coal miners were more likely to get chest problems than the cotton workers.
About arthritis being caused by working in the mill, I don't know. We got a lot more exercise than most. I think arthritis affects anyone no matter where they work. You have to remember no one turned up to work in a car those days. We all bused it. Even then, after getting off the bus, we would have to walk down Scotland St then along Whitelands Road until we were almost in Stalybridge. A hell of a walk during winter. It was pitch black down there. Then we didn't have a sit down job, it was all go. I have a bit of arthritis in one of my knees. It doesn't trouble me too often, only if the weather is wet. I don't blame it on having worked in the mill. In fact I know people here who are crippled with it and never even looked inside a mill.
I think if the mills were still open, you would still find young girls working there. but of course today they would be given ear plugs to wear. No one ever thought of anything like that back years ago. I had no time for Courtaulds. They took over the Wellington Mill I worked at, and on New Year's Eve 1962, we had all got up from having our break when the overlooker came round. He said, "Don't start your frames up, the manager is coming to have a word with you." Len Fox the manager came and told us we were closing down. It was a bit of a shock as we hadn't had a hint of it. That afternoon the overlooker and assistant overlooker came to everyone of us and asked if we would like to go and work at Arrowscroft, a mill owed by Courtaulds. We all said, "No, it was too far." All except two of us. And when we got word we were on a week's notice, we asked about severance pay. They turned around and said, "No, because you were offered a job and refused." Later in the week the overlooker told us that there were just two jobs going at Arrowscroft, and had the first two people taken them we would have been entitled to a pay out. We didn't get a red cent and some of the men and women had worked all their lives there. We got the union in. They said, "Yes, it stinks what they have done, but you haven't a leg to stand on. You were offered a job and didn't take it." I myself had worked there 12 years, but some of them were ready for retiring. Some well over the retirement age, in their seventies. Courtaulds knew we had any amount of mills to go to that were local, and that we wouldn't have wanted to go to Arrowscroft. I have no idea where Arrowscroft is...
We had a gang of old men who were scourers, all in their seventies. Their job was taking the frames apart, cleaning and oiling them, then putting them back together. Any rollers that were damaged they sent to be put on a machine that smoothed the surface out. Old George Moxey from down the West End, he had been a brick layer all his life. Tommy Finnity from off Timperley Road, old Artie Walker, from Smallshaw Lane, and three more. None got a cent, I think it was a guy called Evans that had the job at the Cedar smoothing out the rollers. His place was near the office. I went down to the school on Queens Road same time as his son Dennis. He was in my class. I worked at the Cedar on evenings, Jack Rogers were the overlooker. I had known Jack years before as he used to go to the Premier dance hall before we were all wed. Jim Ogden was the assistant overlooker. I didn't like the Cedar. Those spinning frames ran twenty four hours a day. First the day workers from seven thirty until five thirty, then us, five thirty until nine thirty, then the pakistans worked the night shift, then Saturday morning was optional, if you wanted a bit of overtime in. It was a very dirty mill, not like what I was used to. We had vacuums going round all day at the Wellington on overhead rails, and very modern frames built by Platts of Oldham. I loved it there, modern toilets and foot baths.
We had Billy working at the Wellington. He lived on Ripon St. He was very backward. He worked on feeding the devil - it's where the process begins, from the raw cotton. He did what he wanted, Billy. In those days all the mills took on backward people or slow learners as they are now called. I met him at Hurst Cross last time I was over there. He was stood outside the Royal Oak, Hurst Cross. He asked me if I would lend him a pound to go for a drink. I said, "When will you pay me back?" He said on Thursday. I gave him some money but, of course, I didn't see it again. Everyone loved Billy but if he took a liking to someone he would drive you mad. For reasons unknown he took a liking to me and every night he came to our house after work. My husband was real fed up with him. I said, "Oh, take no notice. He's harmless," and he was. Then he took a liking to my sister. He brought a note from his mother inviting my sister to tea. My sister came running up my alley and said, "What am I going to do?" However, we decided she should go and explain to his mum that she wasn't his girl friend, and she did. We had a good laugh about that. Billy eventually married but to a girl who was like him. They never had children. Both loved their tipple.
You know, if I had my time to do over again, I would choose to work in the mill, no doubt about it. I later worked at Tameside as an auxiliary nurse. I worked at the Roxy bingo hall. I worked here as an assistant housekeeper for fourteen years at a migrant hostel, but was never as happy as being a cotton mill lass - a doffer then a spinner!
As a youngster working in the cotton mill, my friend and I used to run all the way up Whitelands Road at lunch time every pay day and go to Booths for a meal. We never changed our menu. It was creamed potatoes with battered and fried fish, and peas, and apple pie with custard for afters, if we could afford it. The main meal cost one shilling and threepence, the sweet I think was about sixpence. We always went upstairs and sat next to the window. The same waitress, Barbara, served us every week. We were only fifteen, so it was a big thing for us, dining out! I'm going back to the late forties early fifties. By the time we had run back down Whitelands, we could have eaten it again. We were breathless!
I remember two mills in Hurst, the Cedar on Alderley St and Patrioux cigarette factory, which was once a mill. It had Alger on the chimney, so I presume that was the name. The other mill on Queens Road were the Cake-a-Pie.
In one room was the mule spinning known as jinnys. The machines run on wheels and went back and forth, my dad worked in the jinny room. But later, they cut that part out, I don't know why. I worked at the Wellington Mill in the room that was once the jinny room. It was always know by us as the mule room. There were still steel tracks on the floor from where the jinnys had once been. They built modern spinning frames in there so I was very lucky to get in.
Fishers Mill, Lees Street. (Tameside Image Archives)
There were two mills near Turner Lane, James Howe and Fishers Mill. Fishers stood on the site on Lees St where, after being demolished, the chest clinic was built. Long before my time though, I only remember the chest clinic. They had weaving looms there. In fact it may only have been weaving because, going off the land the clinic was built on, it couldn't have been a usual mill, I don't think. My mother worked at Fishers, and is on a photo on the Tameside archives... under 'Turner Lane', second pic down, she's the young girl sat down. All my family say it could have been me sat there at that young age, except for the clothes. I knew I looked like my mother but didn't know how much until I saw this pic!
To work in the mill was an easy job. You were never under pressure. In fact you didn't need brains to work there. It was so full of laughter, day in and day out. Everyone helped each other. You went home at night and completely forgot about work until next day. Never did you go home wondering what was facing you next day. No pressure at all. Some of the men and women were still working in their seventies. For instance, the scourers. they were a gang of elderly men who took the frames apart oiled and greased everything then put it all back together again.
I ran two frames in the spinning room, each frame had 200 tubes on each side so I looked after 800 tubes, known to us as 'ends'. Besides that each tube were fed by raw cotton on bobbins in what we called the creel. We got them from the card room. To each tube there were two bobbins coming from the creel and through rollers onto the tubes, making the cotton a little stronger, so in all I had 1600 bobbins to see to as well! Once the cotton ran off them I would put another full one in its place. After the tubes were full, the doffers came on and took the full ones off, put empty ones on and started the frame up again, then went along to piece any ends up that had broken while doffing. Then it was up to me again. The bobbins were then sent to the winding room, and again went through more rollers. If the ends broke in the winding room, the women had a knotter strapped to their hands to piece it up again. From there it went to the beamers. You can't really explain it to anyone, you have to see it.
I loved working in it though and it paid more than a lot of places, especially as youngsters. After Courtalds took over most mills, as they did with ours, that's when all the closures began. But, of course, English cotton was dear to buy. When they let it be imported from overseas, it killed it off all together, which was sad really because anyone that was backward, or as they say today, a slow learner, they were always set on in the mill, and everyone took care of them. No one was out of work who wanted it.
Cedar Mill, Hurst. (Tameside Image Archives)
I know when I had my two, I went back on evenings at the Cedar Mill, Hurst. I had done a days work before going, so I tell you, I didn't need any rocking to sleep. I was out like a light in minutes. But, you know, I loved those four hours away from home. It kept us mums sane, away from the kids, just to relax, be yourself, have a good natter and a laugh.
There wasn't any weaving looms at the Cedar. The only mill in Ashton I can think of for weaving was the Wellington Mill on Whitelands Road. A very big weaving shed there, and so noisy, all the shuttles going back and forth. My cousin was a weaver and I worked in the ring spinning there, I used to go and see her now and again but was glad to get away from the noise. And I thought the ring room was noisy! It was like heaven to me after that!
I was only thinking the other day when we were on about weaving sheds why they were only one storey and thought that maybe it had something to do with the weight of the looms, but then the spinning frames must have been heavy as well. The Wellington Mill was a five storey and the weaving sheds by the side of it.
If I remember right, there wasn't any windows in the walls of the building. The roof were on a slant, kind of went into a point all the way along, and was made of glass, so it must have been for the light. As I walked down Whitelands Road I passed the opening for the Texas and Waterside Mills which lay back off the road. Then the weaving sheds of the Wellington started. It was a blank wall all along. The gate stood between the that and the five storey part.
The only mills I remember down the West End was, the Tudor and the Cavendish Mill. In Hurst was the Cedar, the Alger, which later became Pattreiouex cigarette factory, Whittaker's mill which later became Whitbread s brewery, and the Hurst Mills which was demolished before my time. I must have missed that one by the skin of my teeth. There was also a silk works on Bentinck St.
The Oldham bus use to come along Lees Road at 28 mins past every hour. When I worked on shifts at the Wellington Mill on Whitelands Road, a special bus was put on for the 6 to 2 shift, but not for the 2 to 10. So I used to get the Oldham bus at 28 mins past one, near St Christopher's, get off at the bottom of Montague Road, near Cockbrook, just before Stamford Park, walk over Cockbrook and cut down a little street, over a dirt back and it brought me out right facing the mill. I would get there by about ten to two. A good short cut that was too. And the best part was, there was a confectioners in Cockbrook sold lovely cream and vanilla buns, yum!
When I worked at the Wellington Mill on Whitelands Road, there were two shops facing that made dinners. One, Mrs Hamer, used to make beef steak puddings served with lovely thick smooth gravy, and the other one, Ray Rook, used to make potato pie. Both were to die for! We used to order before starting work at 7.30. Both shops let us have tick as well. I bet you don't see that these days. Everybody piled in Thursday - pay day - to pay their bill.
Most of the mill girls wore turbans. No one ever saw their hair unless you bumped into them on the weekend while out having a drink. Everyone put rollers in. You would see them Saturday morning doing their shopping, rollers in, turban on, with either a brown paper carrier bag or a basket. You don't see anyone hardly now carrying a basket, do you? ..was it Andy Capp's wife who wore a turban?
I don't recall tenters when I worked in the mill, but many many years ago it seems the cotton that had been woven were put on tenter frames to be stretched and pulled into shape. It was a wooden frame with L shaped hooks top and bottom, the top hooks facing upwards and the bottom ones facing downwards. It's where the saying 'to be on tenter hooks' comes from. The mill I worked at had books we could borrow to read of the early spinning and weaving, which were very interesting.
Some were named minders but I think it was the workers themselves put the name to their work.. like minding the frames. My dad was known as a minder but on his marriage certificate it says his occupation is a cotton spinner. He worked in what was known as the mule room.
You would have worked in the ring spinning room if you were a banter. Always young lads had that job. I remember they use to sit on their bum, and had a long piece of wire to draw the bant through to the other side of the frame. Later where I worked they had tapes that went round two spindles on each side instead of just one, but it was still the same procedure As a doffer in my teenage years we always had a good weigh up of any new banter. [Wink] [Grin] My dad called string 'bant' up to the day he died.
Manchester United plane crash, 1947 - I remember walking round my frames that afternoon, ring spinning, when one of the girls came flying up the alley all upset and excitable. She told me about the plane crash but was talking so quick I hadn't a clue what she was on about. She ran off then into the toilets so I followed her and got the whole story. First time I ever saw grown men cry. They were all heart broken. I think just about every adult in England prayed for Duncan Edwards, but it wasn't to be. He died two weeks after.
I remember the apprentices having their faces blackened. Another thing they used to do as well, if you were getting married your workmates would sew streamers on your coat, and most times they would buy you a poe (guzzunda) and decorate that as well. It was very embarrassing walking through the street on your way home. Do they still do that, I wonder?
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