IT began with a tale of two gas rings. At a meeting of Laisterdyke Local History Group, Kathy Nicol shared an amusing story about the house where she lived as a girl with her mother on New Lane.
It was originally one house, divided into two, and her grandparents lived next door. Both houses had old black-lead ranges comprising fire, oven and boiler. Kathy’s house, No. 13, later had its range replaced with a gas fire, tiled hearth and Baby Belling gas cooker. “An oven whose temperature could be regulated - no more burnt buns or undercooked pies!” recalled Kathy.
It was in 1967, nearly 50 years after her grandparents moved in to No.15, when Kathy’s aunt, now living there, complained that “this North Sea gas is very expensive”. Kathy later realised that the cooker pipe in No.13 disappeared into the wall...connecting to the meter next door.
Said Kathy: “As far as I know, Mum never told Auntie Ethel - it would have meant admitting that she (and her parents before her) had been paying for the gas ring since 1909!”
Kathy’s story got the group thinking about the social history of their own homes. Keen to document “changes in our homes which have come about since we - a group whose ages range from 60-something to 90-plus - can remember”, Gina Bridgeland drew up a questionnaire for members. Covering eight topics - heating, lighting, cooking, washing, bathing, cleaning, storing food and shopping - it compared how their grandparents lived with conditions of their childhood, and how they live now.
The result is a delightful book, edited by Gina, called Changing With The Times, Homes and Shopping in Laisterdyke.
Accompanied by vibrant images of people at work and at home, old adverts, shop fronts and domestic appliances, it’s an entertaining snapshot of life in the 1940s and 50s. There are recollections of mill bobbins used for kindling on the open fire; the wash day ritual of hauling out the peggy tub; coal rations; Singer sewing-machines; shared “middens”, with sheets of newspaper on a hook; kneeling on the doorstep with elbow grease and a scrubbing brush; keeping net curtains clean and bright with Dolly Blue; and using “rip-raps” saved from Bonfire Night to clean the chimney.
“These accounts would hold true of any district of Bradford, or any West Yorkshire town,” says Gina. “We hope our book will appeal to a wide circle of readers who look back with both affection and astonishment at the way they used to live, and a younger generation wanting to know about the daily lives of their parents and grandparents.”
The book will be launched at St Margaret’s Church, Thornbury, on Tuesday, 5.15-7pm, where the guest speaker is Lesley Ellis, who appeared with her Bradford family on BBC2’s Back In Time For Tea last year.
On the cover of the book is a watercolour, ‘Laisterdyke Curve’, by local artist Barry Langroyd Hanson; a street scene of shoppers waiting for a bus, against clouds of smoke from mill chimneys and steam from a train. A postcard of the image is included with each book sold.
“I remember as a child with my mates standing on the Laisterdyke Dip,” recalls Barry. “Suddenly a huge roar was heard, then you were covered in great clouds of smoke and steam and sometimes hot flying coal and ash. The noise was deafening. We used to come home with black faces.”
Terry Allsopp recalls his childhood bathtime ritual, in the days before bathrooms: “I remember my father, Woodbine in his mouth, standing me in the kitchen sink, where we had an electric water heater. Once when the pilot light bulb was missing from the heater switch, while standing in the wash bowl I put my finger in the light socket and had an electric shock. Perhaps by a miracle, I survived!”
Barry Pickard recalls the “cosy ambience” of gas lighting at Bowling Back Lane: “The biggest drawback was that the gas supply was metered... and if the credit fell we were sat in the dark until someone groped their way into the cellar to insert more coins. Moving to Leach Square in 1948 was like Utopia because it had an electricity supply.”
The late Patricia Brook moved to Bradford from South Wales and, newly-wed, lived on Napier Terrace with her parents-in-law. When she and husband Ken moved into their own home, Napier Road, they acquired a gas stove. “It could only be bought under my husband’s name from the Gas Board,” recalled Patricia. “It was a ‘New World’ cooker with four rings, a built-in oven and a gas gun on the side to light the rings, oven and eye-level grill. The height of modern cooking had come to Napier Road!”
Recalling shopping trips, Patricia remarked that “Everything from apples to zips could be bought along the length of Leeds Road”. Her daughter, Susan, who has lived at Napier Road all her life, remembers an array of shops on the Thornbury stretch of Leeds Road in a series of affectionate pen portraits, from Smith’s chippie to a clock repair shop where proprietor Mr Warner would emerge, “like a Cyclops”, a magnifying glass attached to his spectacles.
l To order Changing With The Times call Gina Bridgeland on 07840 760535.
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