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.
WHAT OF TOMORROW?
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
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
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
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
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"?