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Barwicker No 21
March 1991

In common with many other villages in the pre-war years Barwick depended very much on radio, then always called 'the wireless', with occasional visits to the cinema, theatre or concert hall as something special in their varying degrees of excellence, for its entertainment. Garforth had a modest picture-house, as they were often called, and was easily reached by bike but lost its popularity for the Barwicker when the large cinema was built at Cross Gates, so conveniently near the Barwick - Leeds bus route.

I had my first experience of symphony concerts at Leeds Town Hall, of opera at the Leeds Grand Theatre and of the music hall at the Empire Theatre. And when the stage adaption of Walter Greenwood's 'Love on the Dole' was presented at 'The Empire' reports of its dramatic power shocked some of the Barwick residents into visiting a theatre for the first time in their lives. No actor had ever shouted on stage, 'You lousy old bastard!'

The new large cinemas had their 'resident' organists; Nelson Elms (whose signature tune was 'Trees') at 'The Ritz' and Henry Croudson at 'The Paramount'. They also had stage performances at times from bands, semi-retired actors and others. I saw Ambrose and his Dance Orchestra, Ramon Novarro, the original 'Ben Hur', and Tom Mix of cowboy fame. An astonishing gentleman called 'Samson', of course, carried a horse on the stage of 'The Empire'.

Dances were held at the old Institute and later in the school at Barwick with Victor Cullen, for the local branch of the British Legion and the Fire Brigade, as the most regular organizer. The last Barwick Dance Band which I can remember comprised George Pullan (piano/leader), Pat Murphy (violin), Gerald Hartley (mandolin), Alva Prince, my elder brother (drums). George led, reading from the piano score, while violin and mandolin followed by ear. I joined them on one occasion but, as they had no copy of the chords for plectrum guitar, found improvising in constantly changing keys, a little too much.

Learning to play a musical instrument in those days, for the villager, was very much 'the hard way'. Guitar teachers were rare and only to be found in Leeds. From the bus terminus I had to walk or take a tram to Brudenell Road, where a Mr Berman charged seven and six an hour. My further musical studies were to come in London many years later. Guitar enthusiast readers may wish to know I had an American 'Olympic' cello-built plectrum guitar which cost twelve guineas in a hard case.

In the later 1930s local concerts were few but I recall the Institute being packed with people for a performance by a travelling company of The Cooperative Society. For some reason I always remember the light tenor who sang 'Where the Pretty, Pretty Flowers Grow'. The Chapel had a Youth Fellowship which had some amateur shows organised by Lucy Hewitt.

I used to paint the posters for the local functions and always illustrated the heading with something topical. When the war came, for the British Legion functions, I did posters headed by paintings of 'Spitfires' and 'Hurricanes' shooting down German bomber aircraft. Those illustrated posters were acquired as souvenirs by local residents and I wonder if any of them have survived.

During my lifetime in the village Barwick always had thriving football and cricket teams comprising players who lived in the village. The first football field I remember lies next to the churchyard; then in 1930, the club moved to a site between Mill House and Carrfield Lane. The Cricket Club had a typical village pitch with roped-off square, which protected the well-kept wickets, and a useful. white-painted pavilion/changing room. The cricket pitch was in an irregularly shaped field a long arm of which gave access to Elmwood Lane and lay south-west of Hall Tower Hill. I remember many pleasant Saturday afternoons in that setting.

But the occasion I remember most vividly had nothing to do with cricket. It occurred when I was 16 and had become aware of the charms of Phyllis, the house-maid at the 'Gascoigne Arms'. She came from Kippax. was dark-haired, petite and always smart and fresh in a shining, white. bib-fronted apron. A real English maid. So one evening. when she was spared an hour. we took a walk up the field where cricket was played. It was very dark and there were no nearby properties to shed any light at all. as there is today.

All was quiet, peaceful. and we were not afraid of the dark, only thinking of ourselves, when suddenly our hand-in-hand tranquility was shattered. There were horses in the field and we could not see them nor they us. Our voices must have disturbed them and. apparently, terrified them. for they started to gallop about seemingly in all directions. Sometimes, they were so near that I feared we would be trampled under the hooves. The safest place. I decided. would be inside the railings of the cricket pavilion and there I dragged Phyllis by hand. There we waited until the neighs and galloping noises moved round to a more distant part of the field and we could run back the way we had come to Elmwood Lane.

Walking was a popular recreation and, on Sundays, couples or small groups of the local youth were always to be seen on the lanes. Unless they were engaged, or seriously courting, the sexes strolled separately but on reaching Aberford the young men would stop to chat to local girls when the opportunity arose. That was one of the attractions for it is an old saying that the sweetest apples grow 'on the other side of the fence'. By walking further to Hook Moor, which was a popular convergence point, one might meet the girls - or bays - from that surrounding area.

Another popular walk was to Aberford on the main road with a return via Parlington park and woods, past Throstle Nest Farm, to Garforth Road near the golf course.


This is my last chapter, not for lack of material, but in order to tie together, somewhat autobiographically, a fragment of Barwick history. It has given me pleasure to recall and record some times which that small number of my contemporaries in the Village will remember. Others will not, for greater, horrific events in the world were to take over and none of our lives would be the same again.

That is a day I shall never forget, 3rd. September 1939, when we heard the voice of Neville Chamberlain on the radio telling us we were at war with Germany. It was a warm, sunny Sunday, which we were enjoying in the garden, suddenly to turn our thoughts to my brother Colin, one of the first conscripts under the Militia scheme, then training for the 'King's Own Scottish Borderers', soon to be followed by my younger brother, Robin, into the 'West Yorkshire Regiment'. And we were not to know that Barwick would soon lose its first young man, who was in the regular RAF, killed in a bombing raid over Germany. I did not know, on that sunny September day, that I would soon make a decision to go the recruiting office in Leeds, on New Year's Day 1940, to volunteer and be accepted for the RAF.

And there had been another Sunday just before the war when a large RAF monoplane, obviously in trouble, had made a long gliding descent, low over the village, appearing to have little safety margin above the church tower, to disappear towards the north-east. It would obviously come down not far away so many of us on cycles made off in that direction and found the Handley-Page 'Harrow', almost intact, in a field on the northern side of the Leeds- Tadcaster road, before the old Bramham Crossroads. The pilot had been fortunate in finding a long, level field in which to touch down but could not prevent the machine from slewing to end up, nose to a steep hedgebank and the starboard wing extending across the road. Some of us had a close look at aeroplanes when Campbell Black and his 'Air Circus' staged an event from a field between Thorner and the Leeds-Tadcaster road. On that occasion the 'star turn' was a dive over the airfield reaching, I believe, a speed of 180 mph, by a scarlet-painted Fairey 'Fox', but there was nothing near the size of the 'Harrow' transport aircraft.

How things come to mind, one event prompting thoughts of others! Potterton Lane, by which we cycled to find the aircraft, I knew so well. It was the 'back-door' way to York and many a Barwicker has parked his bike in an outhouse of the 'Fox and Grapes' Inn and caught the Leeds-York bus.

Every yard of those lanes was maintained by a 'length man' who had to keep the gutters and verges clear. It was a simple, steady job as people had more respect for public places in those days. Potterton Lane was 'kept' by 'Bendy' Wilson - I cannot remember his proper fore-name - who used to talk about his life during the 1914-18 war when he was a prisoner of the Germans. His abiding memory was of the poor food in the camps and how the prisoners used to entice stray cats through the barbed wire so that they could be killed and used to flavour the interminable cabbage soup. From the camp guards' orders he had learned two words of German: 'schnell' and 'langsam': quick and slow.

A length man of earlier years perhaps "Stivey Kelly"

I do not know the reason for the nickname 'Bendy', nor for others which I remember in Barwick. I remember the owners but not the origins of such names as 'Bucket', 'Nebby', 'Lindrum', 'Snebbs', 'Goose-step', 'Bunny' and others.

One remembers the times when a farmer was called on in an emergency he always had long ladders, ropes, wheelbarrows, special tools and draught horses. A neighbour had got the borrowed sweep's brushes stuck in the chimney and her husband had gone to work. Could I help? I managed to push the brush, after a long struggle, so that the head came out of the chimney then pulled the lot from the top.

Another villager, sweeping a chimney, continued to screw on rods as the brush went up, until there was knock on the door. A passer-by was asking if they knew that the head of the brush was burrowing into the cabbages in the garden.

A tragic case needing help, came to me when wartime brought the black-out. One dark evening I was in the Main Street, at the corner near the former Police Station. A group of teenagers was noisily larking about and passed me, running down the street. After they had gone I heard a feeble cry for help from the middle of the road where I found old Mr Mouncey lying helpless. He had been knocked down, quite accidentally, by those noisy youngsters. It was a dangerous place to be lying helpless in the dark as a '47' bus or a car could come at any time, so I carried the old man and laid him on the pavement as quickly as I could. I called to another pedestrian and asked him to get the wheel-chair, which was kept at the Rectory, and so I got Mr Mouncey to his home in Chapel Lane. Sadly he died within a week from a fractured pelvis and its complications and I was called to give evidence at the inquest.

Now that valuable wheel-chair reminds me of the incumbent of the Rectory at the time. He was the Ven. H C Lovell Clarke, the only parson with whom I had any sort of affinity. Not that I ever had much contact with the Church of England, being brought up as a a Methodist, but I found our Rector a likeable chap who must have come as a refreshing change to his parishioners. He used to have a drink in the 'Gascoigne Arms', which would not endear him to some Nonconformists and on at least one occasion he preached a sermon in the chapel.

Discovering that I was an avid reader the Rector offered to lend me books from his collection and from him I borrowed the works of Mikhail Sholokov and, for the first time, read 'And Quiet Flows the Don'.

In the time of the Ven. Lovell Clarke garden fetes were held in the rectory grounds and they were always well attended, popular events.

Some time before the black-out the village was shocked by another death when a man and two boys saw a parcel in the gutter near Leeds Road, which was found to contain a human head. The resultant 'cause celebre' ended at Leeds Assizes when a butcher was convicted of killing a girl and depositing her remains in different areas around the city.

The war of course brought many anxieties, especially for those families who had members who fell into the call-up categories and those who remembered the 1914-18 war. I remember the fear of old Mrs Wall who lived in Elmwood Lane, in a house which was demolished in the 1950s.

She wanted a refuge away from the house and, as she had space in her overgrown quarter-acre garden I offered to build her a shelter. So, with Mrs Wall providing the materials, my brother Robin and I set about the job. It was a square 'box' in the ground with a thick concrete roof, mounted with earth on top, which, in a direct hit, would probably have been more dangerous to its occupants than the house, but it brought a little peace of mind to Mrs Wall.

In the latter 1930s I voted for the first time in a Parliamentary Election and, unwittingly, broke the law or, I should say, my father did. I was only 19 when my first ballot papers arrived so father asked Mr Ashworth, the school Headmaster, who was in charge of the Barwick Polling Station, if I should vote. 'Yes, certainly', was the reply, so. I did. Then, later, we read in a newspaper that a man in Castleford had been fined for allowing his son, who was under 21 to vote.


These final words must be a complaint and statement of disgust at the social and economic conditions of the time. At the great numbers of unemployed, the widespread poverty, the 'dole system' and the 'means test' for those at the 'very bottom' of the social order. At the time when millionaires were made on the efforts of workers who had to accept low wages. When Henry Ford was in Britain, not to improve the lot of the workers by producing cars for £100 - which only the middle classes could afford - but to continue the process of keeping wages low and making more profit.

It had never been my intention to follow the family tradition and join the long line of Princes in farming and I made efforts to 'break the mould'. It was very difficult to do.

I remember many occasions, when I was 17, with letters of introduction and samples of my artistic work, seeking an appointment with all the publisher-printers in Leeds and being rejected because I was too old. When I was 19 it appeared that I might get into the drawing office of the London and North-Eastern Railway Co. I had passed the interview which I had to attend at the LNER headquarters in York, but was rejected at the medical examination because vision in my left eye was not A1. Company policy required all staff to have perfect vision in both eyes whether draughtsman, clerk or engine-driver. My eyes have always looked perfect and I have only needed reading glasses since the age of 54.

Employers in those days had few legal obligations toward their staff and almost any job could be described as temporary. Dismissal could be instant without redress by the dismissed.

By adding a year to my age on the application form, when I was 20, I got an appointment in Birmingham with a London firm. It lasted less than 6 months and although my fare to Birmingham was paid by the company the return had to come out of my own pocket. That was the first time I had lived away from home.

Unlike so many farmers who were 'rescued' from economic disaster by the new scope brought in by the demands of wartime, my father had already been forced to give up the farm. To a man whose only profession was farmer and the death of my mother in her 47th. year, those must have been harrowing times but, without resorting to bankruptcy or leaving a single bill unpaid, he left farming for good.

With the war, at last, agriculture was recognised as vital to the survival of the nation and there were no obstacles to the sale of produce. Farms which had been offered rent free up to 3 years in the 1930s became profitable holdings with Government subsidies of seed, fertilizers and equipment.

The only piece of pre-war farming legislation which I remember concerned the introduction of quotas for potato growing. It did not help Hr Verity who was fined for exceeding the quota by 5 acres. There was no fixed quotas about how much one could grow during the war. The farmers of today would do well to remember the conditions of farming in those 1920s and 30s.

The Barwick which I knew has gone but memories of it were rekindled by photographs in 'Bygone Barwick'. Perhaps the sweetest ones were of pleasant summer evenings when 'walking out' with one or other of those girls who were children at the times of the photographs. Were we not especially favoured who could say, "1 walked out with a former Barwick Maypole Queen"?

William Prince

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