Friday, 3 April 2015

Some of the late John Dearden's great memories of Haslingden

John Dearden

Characters that visited the town and some of those in it

The Old Prop Woman
An old gypsy lady between 65-70 years old, walked the back streets of Haslingden selling wooden 6ft props to hold up washing lines.

The Old Shrimp Woman
This old lady came once a week from Lytham St Annes selling shrimps from a large wicker basket with a black linoleum cover over the basket. She weighed the shrimps by means of an old tin mug, so many pennies full a mug. She used to shout, ‘Shrimpo, shrimpo.’

The Old Knife Sharpener
This man was about 45 years old and came to the town twice a year. His means of transport was a Raleigh two wheeled bike. On the pillion at the rear, he had a wooden board fixed with 4 types of grinding stones to sharpen our knives and butchers’ knives. The grinding stones were driven by a rubber belt on the rear wheel and he just pedalled to make the grindstones go round.

The Basket maker
This man was old in years and they always called him Blind Jack. He worked in a room, up some steps at the back of Manchester Road, in a building belonging to Whittles Wine and Spirit Merchants (which is now Dr Badr’s surgery.) Jack made baskets to fit over porcelain casks for carrying rum in.

The Old Firelight Maker

This was a man called Phillipson, who lived near Brook Street and who had no legs and got about for transport in a 3 wheeled truck made of wood with a chain and sprocket fixed to the front wheels with two handles on, which he turned to propel his vehicle along. He had a large wooden hut on Rising Bridge Road near Stonefold School, which he used to go to every morning to make firelighters. The hut had a nice smell of naphthalene and he made firelighters in baking tins. Once he got into his hut in a morning, he never came out till 5 o’clock at night. If this wooden hut had caught fire he would have been unable to escape due to his disability, having no legs.

The Old Clogmaker

Walter Barnes, who had a small cloggers shop at the top of Dale Street, was quite a character. His front room, on the corner of Dale Street and Salisbury Street, was visited by all the young children in the area. Walter always sat in the middle of the floor on a stool with thousands of old bits of leather and wood shavings, all in a pile around him. He was surrounded on every wall by wooden cages of canaries, which he used to whistle to. Every pair of clogs he made by hand and he used to sit with a very sharp knife, cutting and shaping a piece of wood into the shape of a clog. Then he would cut the leather into the shape of one’s foot depending on the size. He would fill his mouth with brass nails and with an old file, not a hammer, he would nail the leather onto the wood base. After this, he would nail the clog irons onto the bottom of the clog. He then put thongs in all the way up the leather and finished off by making leather laces to tie the clogs up.

Old Marsden, the Blacksmith

The Town’s Yard Smithy was situated at the bottom of Carr Hall Street. The blacksmith called Marsden was quite bad tempered but was a craftsman as regards the making of horseshoes from a bar of iron. He would put the iron in his furnace, bring it out white hot and mould it into a horse shoe. Whilst still hot, he would put the nail holes in it and finish off by shoeing the horse.

Hutch Bank Quarry Blacksmith

(Violet’s grandfather)The blacksmith at Hutch Bank Quarry was George Lewis, a craftsman in his own right, having been trained by his father, who was a blacksmith in Norfolk and who had two brothers who were also apprenticed to the trade. He made the tools, chisels and chains etc that were used in the quarry for cutting the hardest stone in England. A lot of this stone, that was quarried in Hutch Bank, was transported to London for the footpaths. His father was a self employed blacksmith and shoesmith and he ran his own business. He came to Haslingden from Walsingham and walked it to find work in the Haslingden quarries in the year 1880. He also had a brother called Arthur Lewis who had a fish shop in Regent Street next but one to the Trades Club. You could buy all different types of fish, rabbits, pheasants, grouse and hare, mussels and shrimps. Outside the shop were large fish boxes filled with ice.

The Oatcake Man

Every Tuesday, the Oatcake Man used to come round selling oat cakes from a basket. These were like a pancake but made of oats and were soft when he sold them out of his basket. In those days, every house had a clothes’ rack above the coal fire and these oatcakes were put on these racks to dry out. When dry they were eaten like brittle biscuits after a meal with a cup of tea.

The Xmas Goose
In the 1930s, families in Haslingden used to have a goose for their Christmas dinner and all the grease out of the goose used to be put in jam jars and any one in the family who had a bad chest in winter time, like after a bad cold, used to get their chests rubbed with what was called ‘hot goose grease’ and then you had a piece of red flannel put on to keep the heat in. In those days, you had to pay out of your own pocket if you had to call a doctor out, as well as pay for all medicines etc. Each doctor had a man who used to go round collecting money from patients’ homes every week, in pennies and two pences. They used to say for rheumatism or bad chest, rub in roasted duck fat.

The War Years in Haslingden/Life in the Army

At the outbreak of War I was serving my apprenticeship as an electrician with Haslingden Corporation Electricity Dept in John Street, Haslingden.

As soon as we got the news that England was at war with Germany, a sort of panic started at the Municiple offices on Bury Road and George Bell, who was the Town Clerk of Haslingden, and the Borough Treasurer, F A Green, who were in charge of Air Raid Precautions, sent their orders out that every office and showroom would be immediately fitted with black out curtains and sacks of sand round all windows and doors. Also we had to blacken all the bus windows and do away with bright lights in the buses. Bus headlights had to be modified and we spent hours making a metal case with two slits in it which fitted over the headlights. We then set to, to make a special light that fixed on the conductor’s strap so that he could check his ticket machine, likewise his money bag, being as they had only one small light in the bus.

Our next job was fixing the Air Raid warning sirens. They were fixed on top of the Public Hall, SS Stott’s mill down Laneside, Shepherds Mill Rising Bridge and Albion Mill, Helmshore. All these had to be wired up urgently and all connected up to one central control at the Municipal Offices. This was done through the GPO telephone service, which connected up the relays we had put in at each siren station. The first winter the sirens were tested they didn’t go off. On checking, we found the fans had frozen up with snow and ice. This finished up with Torribar heaters fitted around the fans and when the temperature dropped the thermostat came in and brought on the heaters which stopped them freezing up.

Next door to the Public Hall in Regent Street was the fire station which entailed two fire engines. The large one was a Merryweather with solid rubber tyres and had a brass plaque on the front under the windscreen which read ‘Baxter’ and was named after Captain Baxter, chairman of the Fire Brigade committee at the time. The other engine was a Leyland Tiger and more modern with pneumatic tyres. This had a chromium plaque on the front bearing the name Sutcliffe, who was Alderman J T Sutcliffe, chairman at the time of the Fire Brigade committee.

All down the right hand side of the Fire Station were wooden shelves and each fireman had a highly polished brass helmet. The Chief Fire Officer was a man called Oates Maden? And his assistant chief was his son, Chris Maden who drove the old Merryweather engine.

Haslingden had only one ambulance and this was an old 18HP Austin with a part wooden body and painted a brown colour. In 1937 I was taken ill with appendicitis and in the middle of the night was driven over to Blackburn Royal hospital in this old ambulance. I’m sure it had no springs or shock absorbers. A man called Herbert Bright was the driver for as long as they had an ambulance in Haslingden. He was a very kind man and apologised for the rough ride to Blackburn.

Rag and Bone Men

In Haslingden was an old firm of Rag and Bone Merchants which went under the name of George Berry and Son. They had their premises up at Rakefoot, where they kept their two horses and carts. The son was called Teddy and he went to St James Cof E School. He would finish school at 4 o’clock and go straight out on the streets of Haslingden with his rag and bone cart, collecting old rags, cotton and wool, old brass beds and any old iron. All you got was a small bundle of firewood or a ‘Donkey stone’. This was a stone the ladies of the town used to use on their doorsteps. Regarding valuable antiques, Teddy knew what was valuable and what was rubbish and still does today if you ask him.

(These are transcripts of my Dad’s writing so I take no responsibility for grammar, punctuation or inaccuracies. He was clearly writing his thoughts down as he was thinking about them and I can really hear him speaking some of these things. Some things do make me laugh!  I have more memories about him being in the army and some memories of his days at St James.  "Fiona Balchin")


Some of Marie Ives Memories Received 7th April 2015 

The Knife Sharpener

I can remember the "knife sharpener" coming to Dick Hardman's butchers at the bottom of Chapel Street/Bury Road around the mid 1940s.
I also remember the ambulance which was parked in the garage below my grandad's workshop at the bottom of Chapel Street (Luke Ralph - Tinners), It was at the time driven by John Bell and again it would be around the mid 1940s.


Some of Michael Mullaneys Memories Received 11th April 2015 

Sikhs selling "Silk Merchandise"

On the subject of travelling salesmen (hawkers) of days gone by:
I can recall my grandmother getting all a fluster when the neighbours would rush around warning that the men with scarfs on their heads were coming.
They were referring to those men from the Sikh community from Manchester with their massive suitcases full of all sorts of wonderful silk merchandise to sell on the doorstep.
With their colourful turbans wrapped around their heads and the tails hanging down their backs, huge beards and equally huge moustaches they certainly put the fear of god into all the womenfolk
who were convinced if they got the chance they would kidnap little children in their suitcases and take them back to wherever they came from.

The Turf Man

There was also the Turf man who called every week with his Bantam Karrier blue truck selling turf for fire lighting. This was peat cut into squares and soaked in paraffin which he carried in his hessian apron
needless to say the turf men were black with the dirt from the peat and stank to high heaven of paraffin but always found a good trade for their turf.

The Manx Kipper Men

Then there was the Manx Kipper men who called at irregular intervals with kippers to sell. Max Kippers were a delicacy highly prised and a treat in any household.

Leonard Norris - Mobile Greengrocery Van

Finally there was Mr Leonard Norris with his mobile greengrocery van.  Norris had a shop in Hillside Road but supplemented that business with his van reaching out to customers further afield
I recall him being a jolly man with a head of red hair and moustache to match.

Michael Mullaney

Some of John McGuire's Memories (ex pat Aussy) Received 14th April 2015.


Hi Bryan, 
Michael Mullaneys recollections of the Sikh salesman reminded me of something I saw soon after we moved down to Broadway Estate in 1954.
The estate was very new then and there was nothing built east of Chester Crescent. The prefabs were there of course. On York Avenue and facing Dorset Drive was a field up over a grassy bank. It must have been autumn because I remember the grass being very long.

An Indian fellow (not a Sikh, he didn’t wear a turban) had been going door to door trying to sell silk ties which he displayed from a large suitcase. I followed him around. Partly because of the novelty of a brown man in Helmshore in 1954 and partly because of the notion, which as Michael points out, that he may be there to cause untold harm to the general public. 

It was a hot day and the Indian chap rested on the aforementioned grassy bank. He sank down into the long grass and opened his suitcase. What fiendish plot was about to unfold I asked myself?
Should I run home and tell my parents? I couldn’t they were at work. I decided to sneak up through the long grass and watch him.

He reached into his suitcase and pulled out a CUCUMBER and a packet of salt and settled back to enjoy a tasty lunch.

Kind regards, 
John McGuire


On Way up to "Kite Hill"  (Click over to enlarge)

Some lovely memories from Marie Ives


I was reminded of my younger days when I read about a walk to the Panoptican at Haslingden.
When we were children (my brother, cousin and myself) towards the end or just after the war years, we had the freedom to wander wherever we wanted.  We had no fear of strangers as children have today.  We walked over the paths on the side or over Cribden to Rawtenstall returning home over the Old Road and Whittaker Park.  We had no money and no refreshments, toffees could only be obtained if you had coupons and in most household Mum took charge of these, and crisps could only be bought in public houses.

After the Saturday matinee at the Empire Cinema we usually went up onto laund hey and played cricket or re-enacted the cowboy films we had seen.  One of our favourite things to do in Spring and Summer was flying our kites.  Mum made the kite out of thin cotton and sewed it to a thin dowelling frame in an elongated diamond shape.  We made the tails out of bits of the same cotton tied in knots onto a long thin piece of string about 18 inches long and this was tied to the bottom of the diamond.  A ball of string was wound onto a piece of wood in a 'figure of eight' way, this was then attached to the cross at the top of the kite, and we were then ready for launch.
Off we went up Kirk Hill passing Mrs Pilling's cottage (now derelict) up the field to the left then up the lane to 'Kite Hill' at the entrance to the old quarries at 'Slate'
Sometimes the kite would nose dive and have to be redesigned, but most times it did the proverbial and 'flew like a kite'.  I remember many happy times spent in this quarry, scrambling over the rocks and boulders, and jumping down them into muddy water.  I have passed by this area over the years as I went on walks with family and friends, and stopped to remember the happy times of the past, before continuing our ramble.
Now a Panopticon has been erected at the entrance to the old quarry and the whole area has been altered beyond recognition, even though there's still Cribden as a backdrop.
The hill where we flew our kites has been flattened to accomodate the structure and is very different from my memories.  All the rough lanes there have been tar macadamed and whole area fenced off, looking new and so different from my memories.  Granted in a few years time when nature has overgrown a bit, the viewing areas and walls will blend in with the landscape, but there will be no "Kite Hill" to fly your kite from.

Marie Ives