Story: Elizabeth Shaw
After last issue’s article about the Catherine Arms, The Messenger had a call from Mr Frank Goodwin who lived on Brotherton Street until 1980. His aunt Nellie also lived there between 1930 and 1974.
Nellie was 10 when the Ashford family moved into number 5. There were four children – Nellie, older sister Marjorie and younger sister Elsie and a brother. Father Joseph was a tram driver and mother a housewife. This house later had a mural painted on the gable wall when students lived there.
The house had two rooms downstairs plus a single storey extension at the back, known as a slop kitchen. Upstairs there were two bedrooms and an attic. In 1930 there was no electricity; lighting was by gas and candles. The toilet was in the yard outside. Having a bath meant ladling water into a tin bath. Later Mr Ashford had a bath fitted in the kitchen.
The living room had a coal fire with an oven at the side for cooking. The cellar steps ran between front and back rooms and, besides storing coal, it had a stone table to keep food items cool and shelving at the top of the steps for other food items. In the corner of the kitchen there was a fire to heat water in a boiler. Washing was done in a tub and then put through a mangle, turned by hand. Ironing meant heating an iron on the fire with a second one heating to take over when the first iron had cooled.
With no fridges, people had to do food shopping daily and Mrs Ashford regularly walked her children to town to get supplies. Milk in the 1930s arrived by horse and cart and householders took their own jug out to receive a measured amount of milk. This was before the Coop took over milk deliveries. Another visitor to the street with a horse and cart was the rag-and-bone man and Frank remembers that, depending on the offering, you could get a balloon or a goldfish in exchange.
Nellie went to Pye Bank School at the top of Andover Street.
“On my first day, while my mother was talking to the teacher, I decided I didn’t like school and I ran back home. Later another child told me it was nice at school and there was a sand pit to play in so I decided to give it a try and enjoyed my schooldays after that.”
Both Frank and Nellie mentioned the steep hill up to the school. Nellie talked of the time she had ringworm on the scalp and had to have her hair cut off. To cover her head she wore a mob cap and, after school, boys would chase her down the hill to try and pull it off! Frank spoke of the difficulties of staying upright on the hill on icy winter days.
After Pye Bank School, Frank’s mother Marjorie passed to go to the Central School on Leopold Street. However she was not happy there and her parents had to pay £2 so that she could leave. After this expense, her parents were wary of taking that risk again so Nellie went to Burngreave School – now Byron Wood. The boys and girls were not allowed to mix. The Headmistress was a Scotswoman called Miss Yates and her second in command, Mrs Harris.
Frank also went to this school and told us of being locked in the coal bunker by a prefect and, on release by a teacher, getting the cane.
After leaving school, Nellie worked at Wisewood in Shentall’s grocery shop and returned there after her war work, for a total of 25 years. She then did an office job at Fletcher’s bakery, having gained experience in the army, before retiring in 1979. Sister Marjorie, previously a seamstress in Hyde Park, became a crane driver at Tinsley in the war. The fact her eyesight was not very good did not appear to be a hindrance. It was while working there that she met Frank’s father and, when they married, they lived at first with her family at number 5. Eventually the house next door became available and Frank and his parents moved in there.
In the Street
Next door at number 9 lived Mr Godson, a policeman, with his wife and two daughters. Marjorie and Mrs Godson had many a chat over the dividing wall at the back of the house. In the evenings, Mrs Godson made a regular trip down to the beer-off with a jug. Across the road lived Mr & Mrs Payne who apparently did not speak to each other for years!
Children played in the street in the evenings till quite late and it was safe to do so. Hide and seek was good because the yards and passageways gave lots of hiding places. The ominous-sounding “Hangman” involved fixing rope to the cross bars of a gas lamp for swinging on. Boys dared one another to walk on the walls on Catherine Street; Frank fell and broke his arm doing this. Girls would turn a long skipping rope with up to four girls at a time running in to jump.
A more unusual sight for these suburban streets in any age would be an elephant. Nellie once saw one in Somerset Street where it was occasionally used to pull steel bars!
Nellie liked to go dancing, mostly at the Cutlers Hall, although she did make a couple of visits to the dance hall that later became the Mojo. Her brother-in-law was MC at the Cutlers Hall and he often took Nellie to the dance,
“One time I had to help him bounce the car into a small parking space because there was no other spaces available, all this while wearing my long dance dress.”
Frank’s father was a singer and comic when not working in the steelworks. He visited OAP homes and the Little Sisters of the Poor to put on a show. At Christmas time he played the role of Father Christmas at the Children’s Party in the works canteen and again at Pitsmoor Methodist Church. Frank also joined the church drama group and Ellesmere Drama Society. Frank said that often people would become members of the church through having first joined the social activities.
Both Frank and Nellie enjoyed living on Brotherton Street. They spoke of the sense of community at a time when the ladies worked in the home and had more time for their neighbours. It was a good place to live and it is a shame that is gone.
more photos at http://www.copperbeechstudios.co.uk