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A walk down Piggott Street and Buckley Lane in the late 1920's

by Arthur Clough

If, during the late 1920s, we started walking down Piggott Street from St James's Primary School we'd come across to a shop next door kept by Mr Metcalf. The family were Salvationist and Mr Metcalf used to lead the Salvation Army band, playing the concertina.

The same shop changed hands during the period and was kept by Mr Syd Clarke and his wife as a sweet shop. As children with pennies to spend (and they weren't plentiful), we used to stand in front of the shop window to deciding what to buy. To look in the shop window we had to stand on the grating, or grid over the shop cellar. Very often our pennies would fall out of our hands down through the grating from where Syd would retrieve them. He must have been a very kind and patient man.

Next door was a chip shop, always known as "Owd Hannah's", kept by Mrs Hannah Crompton and her husband. The shop was always very clean, with the top of the counter scrubbed to whiteness. Mrs Crompton and her husband also looked almost scrubbed clean. I seem to remember that fish were 2½d (that's around 1p now) and a large portion of chips was 1penny.

Alter this were a few houses (knocked down now), then a cobbler's shop owned by Joseph Wolfendale. He was always known as "Joe Flag". I don't know why. Joe had an oblivious disability. He wore two clogs and one of these was enormous. The shop was in two halves. On the left Joe sat mending clogs and on the other side of the shop he sold newspapers and comics. These comics were laid out on a bench, just where the kids would stand while their clogs were being repaired. I don't remember any comics being sold, they just got read.

Next door to Joe's was the end of the row and the home of the Massey family. It was their son, another Joe, who owned Massey's Builders. This was the firm who built the semis on the opposite side of Piggott Street to the one we're walking down.

Just in passing, I wonder if people are aware that the street took its name from a Mr Piggott. He was the agent for the Earl of Bradford who owned much of the land in the area.

Further down Piggott Street on the other side of Barton Road was and still is, Piggott Park, home of the social Circle cricket club. (I often wonder how this name came about. The playing area is circular, but what about Social?)

This was surrounded by a tall wooden fence and we, not having the few pence admission fee, would peer through the gaps to watch the play.

In the road opposite the entrance to the cricket ground, was a gate. It was hung between two massive stone gateposts. The gate was to prevent vehicles going along the road, which at that time was just a dirt track. On each side of the gate were wooden posts put so only pedestrians could pass through. The gate was kept locked except when, occasionally, it was opened and a nominal toll charged to whoever was passing through. I understand that this was to preserve the right of way on the road, which belonged to the Earl of Bradford.

Further along Piggott Street and still on the left past the Cricket ground was a paling fence surrounding a field belonging to Football Hillock Farm. About half way along crossing the field diagonally was a brook. This went into a culvert and passed under Piggott Street. After the field came a row of terraced houses, some still standing. In the first of these houses lived the Hallam family, whose son Basil was one of my classmates at school.

At the end of the row was a farm gate, which led to football Hillock farm itself. Passing through the farmyard was a footpath leading through to Kildare Street. This path was a bit daunting as very often there would be horses or cows across the path. Mr James Bridge, and his wife Mary, and daughters Annie, Mary, Ethel and May occupied the farm. Previously the Ridyard family lived there. They were always connected to St James Church.

In front of the farm was a field used for grazing. Bungalows stand there now. Further along before Piggott Street Nursery, was a site belonging to Morris's Timber Merchants. On this stood a tank for dipping timber in creosote and a mortar mill, used for making mortar from ashes and lime. (I believe this kind of mortar is not used anymore). This land became Silcoms car park afterwards, and at the time of writing, is now a building site. The place were the Nursery was then used as a timber store.

Over the other side of Langdale Street was a row of terraced houses. At the end of these was Lindley's Off Licence shop. Their son, Wilfred, was another classmate of mine.

The last row of houses brings us to Albert Road. In one of these lived Mrs Hughes, who could often be seen sitting at the door smoking a clay pipe. On the end was a chemists belonging to Mr Guy Plaice-Jones. On the wall of this shop were signs proclaiming him to be a freeman of the City of London.

That was on the left hand side of Piggott Street. If we walked down the right hand side, again from Buckley Lane during the late 1920s, at the junction was Mr Daniel Clare's greengrocers shop. Next came a patch of open ground, which was later fenced in and used as a builders yard by Mr George Seddon of Buckley Lane. I used to be fascinated watching them make breeze building blocks with a primitive hand operated machine.

After this piece of land was a wooden hut with a large front window. It was always known as "Billy's Hut" after its occupant Mr William Morton. He was a clogger and boot and shoe repairer, a real craftsman. In the back of his shop were stacked short billets of alder wood for making clog soles. If you went for a new pair of clogs, Billy would select one of these and shape it to suit your foot. He did this shaping with long sharp knives, which were hooked to the wall.

A real work of art. He was very kind and patient man; always ready to help when our bikes needed repairs. I used to go to the shop to collect the shavings from the clog soles to help light our coal fire.

Alongside the hut and in line with the toll gate across the street was a group of tall hawthorn trees. As children we called them "bread and butter trees", don't ask why. They were smashing trees to climb.

Next to these were (and still are) two red brick houses. The first of these carried a brass plate proclaiming it to be the home of John Wardle - Spiritual Messenger and Healer.

After these was a large corrugated iron building which ran through to the back of Buckley Lane. It had a large enamel sigh, which read "Church Army Social Centre". If we went in by the Piggott Street entrance we'd find a room containing several full and semi sized billiard tables. Going through a door into the next the next room we'd come across a large hall with a refreshment bar, which I always associate with Horlicks Malted Milk. There were tables where dominoes and cards were played and at the end was a raised platform. Behind this platform were the living quarters of the Captain in charge. The whole building was heated by large coke burning stoves with iron chimneys through the roof. On Sundays, services were conducted by the officer in charge (it was the Church Army) but local people always used the whole building on other days as well. It was what would be called a Community Centre. I remember Officers in Charge, captains Jenkin, Allway and Blackshawe.

Leaving the building by the east side door we came to a large field. This filled the area between Piggott Street and Buckley Lane and became the site for those houses built by Joseph Massey. On this field, at the time, local teams played football and ladies hockey. The Piggott Street side was bounded by a wire rope fence, painted with bitumen, or tar as we called it. I understand these ropes were discarded colliery winding ropes. Whatever they were, we used to swing on them and we'd often get in trouble because the tar marked our clothes.

Moving along the street, where there are council flats, was a large, muddy open space traversed by paths. At the back of this was a row of houses called Prospect Place. One of the end houses was the home of Mr Frost, the local lamplighter. He went round the area carrying a pole with a flame burning on top, lighting the gas street lamps.

At the end of Piggott Street there still stands a large mill. It's now used by Silcoms Engineers, but one this mill had a tower, which carried large letters naming it Eli Dyson – Cotton Spinners. The mill was afterwards used by C W Morris Joinery.

Buckley Lane

If we start walking in an easterly direction towards Longcauseway from the ex Primary School on Buckley Lane, we'd see the shop opposite had only one window. The right hand widow space was an archway with a large gate. This was where Mr Robert Cooper (who lived next door) kept his horse drawn carriages. He had stables at the back. These carriages were used for weddings and funerals and we always knew them as "Landaus". They could be used open, or with folding hood in bad weather. One of the first things I remember is riding down St James Street in one of these carriages, it was in August 1919 on my Aunts wedding day.

Further along the Lane we'd come to a large shop. It was a Co-op branch and at that time did a Mr Rowland Watson manage a very busy shop. He had two lively young assistants, Harry Lyon and Harry Longworth. I remember going there several times a week to get the bread and other groceries for my mother.

Next-door was an equally busy Co-op butcher, which is now a chip shop. In those days the Co-op paid a dividend out quarterly. This was based o the amount you spent over the quarter; recorded on perforated checks, which they gave you, each time you bought something. When this "Divi" (as it was called) was paid out, there were big queues art the Co-op Offices on Market Street in Farnworth. (Transcribers note, I remember going to the Co-op Offices, which was at the top of the stairs in the main building, and collecting the "DivI". Then going into the Co-op Shoe shop for shoes for school etc).

Following these butchers was and still is a row of houses. In the end one lived Mr Isaac Lythgoe, who had a coal round operated by two horse drawn lorries. At the back of these houses was a field and stables, used by Mr Lythgoe for his horses.

Across the side street, on the corner of the next row of houses, there is still a corner shop. At that time it was owned by the Hulme family, the only one I can remember was named Mary Emma. This same shop was at another time, kept by mar John Brown and his wife. They'd lived next door to me before taking the shop and I regarded them as honorary Aunt and Uncle. John was renowned for the quality of ice cream, which he made and sold.

I spent many happy hours with him, in the cellar of the shop, turning the ice cream freezer until such time as an electric machine was installed. John had an ice cream cart drawn by a pony named "Girlie". She also pulled a pony cart called a "trap". I made many journeys with him to collect the blocks of ice from the ice works in Bolton. These blocks were broken up and packed with salt into the outer container of the ice cream freezer. Incidentally we used to go to Bolton along Bradford Road, which was then unpaved, and had to pay a toll to pass along the road at the tollhouse, which is still standing.

Next door to the shop, to continue down Buckley Lane, was the home of Mr Tonge, a piano teacher. His father, Samuel, had been organist at St James's Church.

A few doors away lived an elderly lady, Miss Betsy Longworth. She was named in the history of St James's Parish, as being mainly instrumental in collecting the money to build a Sunday school in New bury. She lived alone at No 175, except for the company of a parrot.

Further up lived Roger Grundy who sticks in my mind because of his frequent walks to Bolton. It wasn't just his walks that make me remember him; it was his clogs he did it in. They were highly polished, with embossed patterns and brass nails. What a pleasure it was to hear the clatter of those clogs.

At the end of this row of houses and back from the newer terraced houses, was an open space and what we used to call "hen pens". The first of these was kept by Mr Wilkinson, who lived opposite. Next to this pen was one owned by Colliers Butchers. They kept hens and ducks on it, as well as sheep waiting slaughter.

Back to Buckley Lane, were the bungalows now stand (after Greenhill Avenue), was the paint works of Mr George Davies. The paint made there was, I recall, made from oil resin and various pigments ground together with lead powder. People in the area used to go to buy paint, taking empty trade tins or similar containers to put it in. It cost, as I remember, about one shilling (5p) per pound. Most of the paint seemed to be packed in large drums and sold in bulk, I was a friend of Leonard Davies, the younger son, and with him had access to the works. One interesting feature, I remember, in there was a cooper at work. I think he mainly repaired barrels rather than made them.

Past the paint works was the Manor Glass Works, owned by Mr Southerest. They seemed to make medicine bottles mainly. These were made by getting molten glass on the end of a tube, placing the glass in a mould and blowing down the tube until the glass fitted the mould. The air blown in made the inside of the bottle empty, the mould made the shape of the neck were the air went in through the tube. When the glass cooled you'd have a medicine bottle. Children would wander inside to watch the men working. Sometimes they'd come out with glass waking sticks, which the men had made for them. It would be interesting to know if any, of these still survive.

Before the next row of houses was, and still is Guidepost Road. Everyone used to refer to this as "Deawn-bi-Johnny Bradbury's", because some distance down lived Mr John Bradbury in a house, which stood on its own. The road was used as a through way to Worsley Road.

On the other side of it, from the glass Works on Buckley Lane, was the house occupied by Mr Davies, owner of the Paint works.

Further along was, later, built a house and surgery for Dr Vincent St Claire Lucas. He was a very large West Indian doctor who was later to become the first Freeman of the Borough of Farnworth. A memorial window dedicated to this very well respected doctor is in All Saints Church Farnworth. (Also Lucas Road named in his memory)

Next door to this house is the Bradford Arms (now rebuilt), which was always known as "Miriam's" after the licensee, Miriam Wallwork. After this came a row of houses and the last building on the right hand side of Buckley Lane was another pub. The Bridgewater Arms. Always known as the "Stonehill" (after the area round there) and the landlady was Mrs Fern.

If we go back to the other end of Buckley Lane and start again walking on the left from the Junction with Piggott Street, on the corner was a greengrocery. As I first remember, this was occupied by Mr James Bridge, who later farmed Football Hillock Farm. After him, the shop was kept by Mr David Clare. Lately this shop has been used a hairdressers.

After we pass the wall behind the houses in Piggott Street, in those days there was an open space, which is now occupied by a terrace of newer houses.

Next were two semi-detached houses, first used as police houses. Then they were occupied by PCs Reagan and Underwood. These and the next two houses were built by Mr G Seddon, who with his family lived in one of them.
After this was a row of older terraced houses were I was born. We lived at No 154, while at No 156 lived the Leyland family; they had two daughters Alice and Helen. Helen was for a long time District Nurse in Farnworth, a very caring person. Both were prominent in activities in St James's Church.

In the next row lived George and Ethel Millar. George was at one choirmaster at St James's. He had a very fine bass voice, while his wife Ethel was a very good contralto. She was the daughter of the Ridyard's, formerly of Football Hillock Farm, and deputised on the organ at St James's.

A few doors along lived Ethel's sister, Ada. Her husband, Fred was a former churchwarden at St James's and worked for the Co-op Bank in Manchester. He could be seen wearing a bowler hat leaving to get the train to Manchester at a much later time than was usual to go to work.

Next came another row of houses. At he end lived the Smith family, whose son Rex, was for many years another churchwarden at St James's. I succeeded him in that office. Near to the other end of the row lived Ralph Waterson, also a former churchwarden. He was employed as a builder at Ladyshore Colliery, Little lever. His wife Annie was the daughter of the Collier family - a well-known family of butchers who we've mentioned before.

After this row of houses came another one, always known as "the long row" for the obvious reason that it was long.

This brings us to the rear of Dyson's Mill and the end of a walk down Buckley Lane in the late 1920s.