About Bolton


Topics + People

Townships + Places



Terms + Disclaimer

Down the Pocket

by Margaret Topliss née Aspinall

I was born in Thornbank, and when I look back at my early years I remember only good days, when the sun always seemed to be shining and the world (My world in the Pocket) was a good place to live.

I came from a family were love was plentiful. My Mother and Father, my sister and Brothers, my Grandma and Granddad Farrel, my many Aunties, Uncles and cousins, The Aspinall's, Farrel's, Healey's, Hunter's, Holmes, Greenhalgh's, Waring's Rattigan's, Mann's, Paulden's and the Fox's, were all part of the background of my childhood in the Pocket.

My Grandma lived all her life in the Pocket, she was a genuine 'Gate Piker' Her family being weavers who lived in Balshaw Street, doing their weaving in the cellar. The Paulden's were a proud family and their nickname was the 'Bewdlers'. She married Jack Farrell who was a collier.

My Grandfather was well known for his fine singing, he was born in Ireland, and when troubled times came to his land, his parents sent him along with his brother Bill and his sister Cilla to England. These children aged 9, 13 and 11 respectively never saw their parents again. To say that times were hard is an understatement. In comparison we have never lived.

The girls who I played with in the Pocket were, Margaret Mercer, Edna Barlow, Nellie Walsh, Madge Fielding, Vera Heaney, Barbara Whitehead, May Wrigley and not forgetting Iris Huddart who I used to go to Pikes Lane School with. Spinning Tops, Skipping Ropes, Handstands, Rounders, Tig, Maypole Dancing, and May Queens with attendants wearing their mothers' frocks and using lace curtains for trains who needed television? You didn't hear the word Bored!

We played in lots of different places. On the ruins of Stephenson Street and the soap works used to be. We crossed the bottom field of the Croal Mill to get to Haslam Park where the hoys played cricket. Many happy hours were spent up the Middlebrook, 'Fishing for Tiddlers'. The older boys went up to the Hundred foot quarry at Beaumont Road to swim. Sometimes we went further a field, to Barrow Bridge or Moss Bank Park and at Easter time we hiked up Rivington Pike. Another particular treat was a visit to Queens Park and go for a paddle in the paddling pool.

The cinema played a big part in my early days. At the Windsor on Fern Street we laughed at the Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy and Abbot and Costello. Other cinematic venues were the Regent, Regal and the Tivoli, to name but a few.

Where ever you went, a great deal of entertainment could be had for four pence. The Pocket Mission belonged to Saviors Church. One of my happiest Memories is of being a singer there, with my sister, at the Saviors Sermons. We wore white dresses, white shawls, black patent leather ankle straps and white straw hats. In these we were very proud walking in the Church procession. I have many happy memories of the Mission and of Sister Fisher and her helpers.

Another childhood memory is of the stables at Thornbank. I remember coming out of Pikes Lane School one afternoon and being given a lift home on the back of Bob, a big coal horse, who my uncle Gilbert had just had shod at Bullfield Forge. I also remember my Dad mixing bran and treacle for the horses.

My Mother never cared for neighbouring, but she had lots of good friends like Auntie Lilly Passy who was married to the local bookie Albert Passy (Passy was short for Pasquill), Mrs Tunnah who kept the outdoor license near the Jolly Waggoner, Mrs Roberts From Gate Street and Mrs Fielding from Balshaw Street. Her best friend was Mrs Noah Scott. When I was five we left Thornbank and moved into Clough Street, where we lived next door to Mr and Mrs Scott and their children, Billy, Mary and Tom. When my Mother broke her leg, Mrs Scott took over many of the household chores, which was typical of her as she was a true neighbour and a good friend.

I remember vividly the families of the Pocket and how well we new each other. Adults were always known as Mr and Mrs and if anyone asked you to go to the corner shop (Either Sinkers or Joe Mills), you did so, with no second thoughts.

Apart from Mills and Sinkers the shops in the Pocket were Charlie Savages Haberdashers and Morris's Outdoor license in Gate Street, the Chippy in Blackshaw Lane, the other Chippy (Ma Beardsworth's) and Platt's the cloggers in Balshaw Street, the outdoor license in Clough Street. Miss Leach, a second hand clothes dealer who supplied good clothes at reasonable prices, was also in Clough Street.

When the war came, a mammoth concert was given by the ladies and the children of the Pocket in the school rooms of the Saviors Church in Bankfield Street. Mrs Edna Huddart, who had been a chorus Girl, put us through our paces. Our top number was 'White Christmas', but perhaps the most vivid memory of the day is of my auntie Ivy standing on the stage, dressed, all in velvet and singing 'Jealousy' the show was a roaring success.

Many of our nearest and dearest went away to war and some of them never came back. But when the war ended we celebrated in style. Some might say we went rather over the top. The bonfire at the bottom of Balshaw Street was so big and powerful, that as well as being a hazard to life and limb, the heat from it melted the lead from the windows and blistered all the paintwork on the doors.

It's many years since I left the Pocket, but I will never forget the people I knew and the happy days we had. There was alot of happiness in the Pocket.

Father McGrath of St Ethelbert's once said that there was as many pianos in the Pocket as there was on Chorley Old Road. And I know that he was right.