Aunt Lucy recalls Back to the Main Historical Society page
Back to the Barwicker Contents page

"Aunt Lucy recalls."

Reminiscences of Lucy Bramall and Bob Hewitt

from The Barwicker No. 2
June 1986

At a January 1986 meeting, one of our members Bob Hewitt, and hie aunt, Mrs. Lucy Bramall, entertained and instructed us with memories of their schooldays and early lives. Aunt Lucy was born in Barwick, as were her father and grandfather before her, and her recollections go back to the second decade of this century.

The village in those days was much more isolated than at present. Barwickers with business in Leeds, and children attending school there, had to walk to Scholes station and back along Rakehill Road, formerly Workhouse Lane or Common Lane. The schoolmistress Miss Shillito, made the same double journey each day in reverse order. The alternative was an even longer walk to the train terminus at Seacroft hospital.

If luggage had to be carried, a pony and trap might be hired. A wagonette, provided by Mr.Reed, took housewives to the shops in Leeds each Saturday. Buses came later and even then might not get through in snowy weather. Mrs.Duckett, whose husband was the director of a garage in Leeds, was the first lady driver in the village and she would scatter the men lounging outside the Gascoigne public house, as she drove round the corner without slowing down.

Mrs.Bramall remembers Miss Perkin who kept the village sweet shop and baked tea cakes for sale. Her shop was the place in the village where one kept up with local gossip. She recalls her mother speaking of "Old Yesty", who sold yeast from a cart bearing the legend:
"Since man to man is so unjust, No man knows what man to trust. I've trusted many to my sorrow. Pay today and trust tomorrow'"
A spinster, disgruntled by her state, packed her bags, hired a pony and trap to the station, and pronounced the words:
"Farewell, shabby Barwick! I bid thee adieu, For where I am going there are sweethearts anew."
And she was back next day!.

How many Barwickers in exile, like Mrs. Bramall, have feelings of nostalgia when they hear "Barwick Green", the jaunty signature tune of "The Archers"? The piece is one of a trilogy, called "My Native Heath", written by the Heckmondwike composer Arthur Wood, who loved the Dales and dalesfolk. The other parts are "Bolton Abbey" and "Knaresborough Hiring Fair". Barwick Green is said to be the space in front of the Methodist church. Arthur Wood's connection with Barwick came through his wife, formerly Miss Bean, whose family had a scholastic stationers and booksellers business in Leeds.

The Bean family was in Barwick in the eighteenth century and is mentioned in documents associated with one of the Barwick charities, (about which articles will appear in future editions. Ed.) The Bean family returned to Barwick from Leeds at the beginning if this century. One member of the family Dr. Harold Bean, was well known in the district as a G.P., amateur actor, composer and conductor, and enthusiastic motor cyclist.

Aunt Lucy loves the Methodist church in Barwick, built in 1900 and with a dedication to Billy Dawson, the minister who was called "the Shakespeare of the Methodist pulpit". He lived at Barnbow and when he died, the head of the funeral procession 'reached the church in Barwick before the last mourners left Barnbow. Methodist ministers walked six abreast, following the coffin. The Methodist circuit which includes Barwick has had such well-known preachers as Leslie Weatherhead and Dr. Sangster. The history of Methodism in Barwick has been sadly neglected, (Perhaps some of our readers will remedy this omission. Editor.)

The Chapel
- Bart Hammond

Bob Hewitt recalls the Barwick of his childhood in the nineteen-thirties with great affection. He was the first baby delivered by Nurse Bywater, a much-loved village character, villagers paid a small sum each week for her services. She also acted as the "nit nurse" for the school. Getting expert medical advice in Barwick in those days was something of a lottery. To see Nurse Bywater, one had to get past her husband-cum-receptionist, Billy Bywater, also something of a character. One fared little better at Dr.Knowles' surgery at Collett's, the Blacksmith. Mrs.Collett accosted patients and prescribed her own remedies - for the young Bob "pink goodies", a foul-tasting laxative, taken crushed in jam and, no doubt, purchased from the herbalist, William Lamb of Leeds Road.

How many Barwickers remember Old Reuben, with his bowler hat, umbrella and row of medals, who lived in the Pumpyard and was a prominent figure at Armistice Day ceremonies, until he suddenly disappeared? Or Old Jack (christened Herbert Turner) who lived in a decrepit caravan in Shoulder of Mutton Lane, now Fieldhead Drive? His clay pipe was so short from frequent breakages that it looked as if his beard was on fire. He had a flat cart and pony for carrying vegetables for sale. One day his pony fell into the filter beds and young Bob rushed out of school to see the fun, but, before he arrived, the pony had struggled out - no doubt sadder and wiser and smellier. Old Jack's eccentric behaviour waxed and waned with the phases of the moon. During the war, he was in the habit of going each night into the air-raid shelter in the cellars of the Old Rectory. It was pneumonia, not the bombs, that finally caused his death.

In the nineteen-twenties, medical services at work were inadequate, despite frequent accidents. Bob Hewitt's maternal grandfather Joseph Balderson, worked in one of the Garforth collieries, assisting in the winding of coal wagons from the bottom of the shaft. One day, he had three fingers of his right hand severely crushed by one of the wagons. He wrapped his neckerchief around his wounded hand, rang down the cage and went up to the surface. From the pit-head he walked to Garforth station, took the train to Leeds and walked to the Infirmary. Mr.Braithwaite, a surgeon, cut off the injured fingers at the second knuckle. The indomitable Joseph then walked to the station, took the train to Scholes and walked back to Barwick along Rakehill Road. The experience was, however, too much for this courageous man as, a few months later, he had a nervous breakdown which affected him for the rest of his life.

Bob's other grandfather and Mrs. Bramall's father, George Hewitt, kept the butcher's shop in Main Street, Barwick. He had such a practised eye that he could cut off a piece of meat of a given weight without using scales. One day a lady customer asked for half a pound of steak. He cut off a piece and handed it to her without weighing. She objected, so he put it on the scales, cut off the excess to make exactly half a pound and handed it back, at the original price. She never asked him to use the scales again.

History that is remembered and passed on by word of mouth to the next generation has recently assumed a greater importance than formerly. The lives of ordinary folk, at home and at work, were rarely described by them in written records. Oral history, whether descriptive or anecdotal, helps to fill this gap, and Barwick-in-Elmet Historical Society will play its part.

Back to the top
Back to the Main Historical Society page
Back to the Barwicker Contents page