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Elsie Hargreaves - Sixsmith Hill Remembered

as told to Janet Lord

This is the story of Elsie Hargreaves, (nee Jones), who was born in Jackson Street Farnworth in 1901.

When Elsie was about 4 years old she moved from Jackson Street into Sixsmith Hill, which is just around the corner. The house they had on Sixsmith Hill had a huge kitchen garden and her father Isaac Jones grew lettuces etc, (known as greens) in it. The gardens were known as "Joseph's Salad Gardens". Elsie's aunt and uncle ran it before emigrating)." folks would come with their baskets for a penn'orth or sometimes even 2 penn'oth o' mixed greens". This usually consisted of lettuce, parsley, radishes etc. Elsie fondly remembers how her father would give his customers a free stick of rhubarb when they were going, she laughed as she recalled the residents of Jackson Street moaning about the discarded rhubarb leaves blowing about the dirt roads.

One of her chores was running to Briggs fish stall on the market in her dinner hour for fish for her dad's tea. He would have a pound of conger eel, and everything you asked for would be ha'penny over, in the end everyone would call her 'ha'penny over'.

Dewhurst photographers used to have a shop on Nan Lane (Albert Road, where the florist is now), and Mr Dewhurst used to practice on Elsie and her brothers and sisters, Jack and Walter and Lila and Nellie. Their father used to line them up in front of the rhubarb patch for their photo.

At the time of the first miners strike Elsie's parents helped out in the Kings arms pub at the bottom of King Street. Someone had given Mr Shuttleworth, the landlord, a goat. Elsie's father fattened it up on his vegetables then when the time was right he slaughtered it to make soup for the striking miners and their families. Whilst her parents were helping out in the pub, the children used to play in the upstairs rooms.

When it was walking day, Gladys, Harold, Emily and Frank Shuttleworth along with Elsie and her brothers and sisters, would lean out of the window and watch the parade going past.

Isaac Jones used to work at Roscoe's pit in Little Hulton and her mother used to take in washing, and she also went out cleaning and washing. One of her mother's customers was Mr Lawton (the registrars' brother) who used to live on Gladstone Road. When Elsie and Lila used to take the neatly ironed clothes back he used to give them an apple each. Their mother used to get half a crown for one large basket of washing and ironing.

Even though both her parents worked, she admits, "We didn't have much". One of their neighbours in Sixsmith Hill was Mr. Wilkinson the crumpet man. When he'd made his oatcakes he used to throw them over the washing line to dry. Any broken ones were given to the Jones's. "They were delicious", remembers Elsie. Other neighbours in Sixsmith Hill were Kitty Toms and the Hardman's, who were related to Mr. Wilkinson.

The top of Jackson Street was known as the sugarfields, you could cut through the sugarfields to get to St Germain Street, the top also formed part of Duckshaw. Elsie remembers that there were stables on Duckshaw, the horses belonged to Mr Ingalls, who had a warehouse. He used to ride around selling hardware off the back of the cart. Herbie Hughes used to own the smithy in Jackson Street. There was a big cinder plot in front of his premises and the horses would queue up to be shod.

Elsie's mother wouldn't allow them to play on the sugarfields. So they used to play on Jackson Street. She smiles as she remembers sitting on the steps of the Salvation Army watching the sparks fly on the tramlines.

When the lease was up on their home in Sixsmith Hill, (which was owned by a Mr Steel), the family moved into Lower Street in New Bury. "One day there was a terrific thunder storm and father shouted at us not to go out. A huge fireball dropped from the sky and landed in the dirt road outside, where it disintegrated, the smell of sulphur was tremendous".

Elsie used to go to Farnworth Seminary (later rebuilt and called Queen Street). The headmaster at the time was Paddy Wright and the deputy was Mr Rigg. Elsie confesses she didn't really enjoy school although she liked the holidays! She went part time to Barnes' Mill near Queen Street where she learned to weave. After leaving Barnes' she went to work at Nuttalls on Worsley Road, and from, there she went to the Zeppelin sheds up by Cawdor Street, she has also worked at Crosses mill and Whittaker's pie shop on, Market Street, Farnworth.

Elsie's friend Bessie Brown (now Cooper) had a sister called Nellie who worked in the "Little Nibbler", a weaving shed, just behind Century Mill, where the new houses are now. Here, Nellie had an accident, she caught her cut, (length of cloth) on a winder and wrenched her arm. Later in life, Nellie died from cancer in the very same arm.

According to Elsie there used to be some houses next to Century Mill with hen pens at the back of them. "One morning all the hen pens had disappeared down an 'owd' mineshaft".

As a young woman Elsie used to play hockey for St. James' church. She used to play left full back and Lila used to be the goalkeeper. Their team were the champions of the Bolton League for five years running, Elsie explained that she even played in a charity match on Bolton Wanderers football ground and had her photo in the 'Buff'. Mr Pew the minister used to follow the hockey team and could often be heard shouting to one of the players, Sarah Davies"Come on Sal, let's have another one", The pitch was on Piggott Street and there was a large hut (where Mrs Pew started the Mothers Union) where the mothers used to lay on a spread for after the game, Elsie's mothers' specialty was mock chicken sandwiches, which went down well, especially with the team from Tyldesley.

This is the recipe:

1 cup of lentils (steeped overnight)
2 small chopped onions
2 small leeks
Fresh sage
a knob of beef suet
2 Oxo cubes
a bit of water


Put all the ingredients in a pan, keep stirring until it all mashes down then let it cool, This makes delicious sandwich spread, so I'm told.

Lila and Elsie used to save up their wages from the factory for their holidays. They would catch the train at Moses Gate and go to Blackpool. In their cases their mother would pack them a fruit loaf, some eggs and bacon, a small tin of ham, a small tin of salmon and a tin of fruit salad amongst other things. They used to stay in a lodging house, you had to buy your own meat and fish and the landlady would cook it for you, providing you bought your vegetables from her. "You had your own cupboard in the dining room to store your own food". At night the girls went dancing in the tower.

In 1924 Elsie married Geoffrey Herbert Hargreaves, better known as Bert, He worked as a spinner at the zeppelin sheds and was paid 26 shillings for a 6-day week. During World War One Bert served with the Queens Bay Cavalry, the 2nd Dragoon Guards. He was billeted to Aldershot and Elsie remembers he used to receive extra pay in his wages because he was such a good horseman. During World War 2 Bert was a section officer in the fire service based at Fishpool. It was his job to teach the nurses how to rescue people. When Coventry was blitzed Bert was sent there to help. When he returned home Jeffery (their son) remembers that his father just sat there and cried. He remembers being upset because he had never seen his dad cry before. He had seen so much and had not slept for four nights. According to Elsie one of Bert's worst memories was when Bootle was bombed, the local baths were drained and the pool was lined with dead bodies waiting to be identified. He also told Elsie about a young boy from Liverpool who had clambered through the cordons and was stood sobbing on the ruins of his house. When Bert went to rescue him he explained that he was only looking for his moneybox. Bert used to travel with John Flanagan who had put his car at the disposal of the fire service. (The Flanagan's used to run the school dinners in Farnworth where Blackshaw Engineering is now.) The sights and smells from his time with the fire service left scars on Bens memory and he often had bad dreams about his war years.

Bert's father, Richard Hargreaves was a councillor for Farnworth. He was a weaver at Tom Taylor's in Bolton and collected the subs for the Weavers Union around Daubhill. His mother however, disliked unions and "hit the roof when she found out that he had joined it.

Richard Hargreaves was on the board of guardians at Fishpool institute, (the workhouse). Every Sunday Bert and his father used to take a walk round the grounds to make sure everything was all right. Richard was disgusted to see old men foraging for food in the bins. He realised that it would benefit the residents of Fishpool if they were to run a pig farm next to the workhouse. The pigs were fed on leftovers and slaughtered to raise the income for Fishpool.

Elsie recalls how Bert's father (grandpa Hargreaves) used to get really annoyed at the annual Christmas dinners at Fishpool, because all the female guardians used to get dressed up in their fur and jewellery. "It would act as a red rag to a bull to Grandpa Hargreaves - He was a love" states Elsie, In fact Councillor Hargreaves was so well respected that when he became ill with pneumonia, (he caught a chill whist out collecting for the union), the buses were rerouted away from Lavender Road, where he lived and instead went down Harper Green Road and along Carnation Road, so not to disturb him! Sadly for Farnworth, Grandpa Hargreaves died before his term of office as Mayor commenced. Richard was a fine man, he travelled all over meeting different people - lord and ladies etc, and when Bert asked his father how lie went on meeting all these posh people he replied "Son I just be my natural self, I don't let it make any difference, just be yourself and you've nothing to fear".

Bert and Elsie lived at number 2 Lavender Road and their neighbours were the Walmsley's who were the first people to live on "The Flower estate". The first six or so houses on Lavender Road were show houses, they were built to such a high standard that they ended up costing too much to build, so the rest of the estate was built cheaper. If you've ever wondered why the houses on the flower estate have got bigger windows than those on the North Avenue area, you've got Grandma Hargreaves to thank for that. When Grandpa Hargreaves took her for a tour of North Avenue she said she liked the houses but the windows were too small. So the houses on the Flower estate were made with bigger windows. Apparently, when the Flower Estate was built it was full of trees and flowers and the council gardeners looked after it. It was the pride of Farnworth.

Along Harper Green Road and Campbell Street was known locally as the Boulevard. This was tree-lined playing fields with forms to sit and watch the children playing. There were iron railings along here, and when it was foggy, young Geoffrey and his pals used to play at getting lost on the Boulevard.

Although in her 90's Elsie has a remarkable memory and remembers all the shops along Nan Lane. Collier's butchers at the top of Brackley Street, Blenkinsop's fruit and veg and wet fish, Drews Newsagents which sold all sorts, and Baxendale's haberdashery. Then another shop, and then the hairdressers and Fisks the confectioners. Across the road was the chippy, Shatters tripe shop, 2 or 3 houses and then the pawn shop at the top of Bridgewater Street, also Nabbs mixed grocers where Elsie's uncle Herb worked. Then Walt Whites newsagents, where you could buy 4oz of toffee for a penny. Then another shop, and the skating rink where Elsie's brother Jack used to work fastening skates on to shoes. Then the swings, a field where there were 4 swings for the children to play. The electric shop and the Co-op shop (now the undertakers). Then there was Entwistle's Plumbers the dairy shop, Speakman's sweet shop, some houses, Dewhurst's photographers, Mrs Jolly's house - whom Elsie believes may have been a moneylender. Then the off-license at Longcauseway. Elsie says you could buy 24 oranges for a shilling at Brabbins fruit stall on the market, at the back of the stall you could get a bag full for sixpence - these were damaged ones with the bad cut out. There was Gilberts stall where you could buy clocks, watches, jewellery and cutlery and Baileys pot auction.

How things have changed!