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Bygone Days

by Mr J Thomason

The story begins in 1920 at 303 Plodder Lane Farnworth. I was born under the lights of gas brackets, electric had not yet arrived. Even the street lights were all gas and every evening a man would travel along with a burning torch cupped on the end of a long staff, turning them on and lighting them and then turning them off in the mornings. Also in the mornings, early, you could hear the sound of clogs as a man went along with a staff in his hands with a piece of wire fastened to the end, he would rattle the wire on the bedroom window waking the men for a working day at the collieries. He was paid just a few pence a week to knock them up.

Our house was just across the way from Wash Lane, which is now Bradford Road. About 200 yards down on the right was a large wood building, this belonged to Mr Fred Middleton a coal merchant. The building was his store for the horses and carts and a stock of coal bags filled ready for delivery. Lower down Wash Lane approximately 400 yards from Plodder Lane stood Brooks toll gate house which is still there today, and on the opposite side was their smallholding for hens & vegetables. Just past the house the lane curved left and then right and continued down and terminated opposite Greenland Road. This bottom half of Wash Lane is now Broadway. From the gate house a footpath carried straight on down through the Doe Hey to Green Lane.

There were two Cricket grounds in those days, one was opposite the gatehouse in the fields near to the railway banking, and this was Rose Hill Cricket Club. The other one was lower down the, footpath before you reached Doe Hey this one was Bridgeman Park now known as Farnworth Cricket and Bowling Club.

The first buses to run from Bolton Town Hall ran to a terminus at Lowther Street at the side of Great Lever Park, this cost one penny.

Now starting at the bottom of Glynne Street just around the corner, was a pawnshop where people hitting hard times could realise a little money, trading in watches, clocks, jewellery and household effects. You received a ticket for these objects and you purchased them back at some future date, when you had the money to buy them back.

Glynne Street and Plodder Lane were laid in blue paving stones, which were very rough and slippery when wet. These stones carried on up Plodder Lane to the Railway Station approximately 225 yards above Wash Lane. Then we came to Plodder Lane Infants School and on the opposite side, behind the Canary public house was a small wooden hut, where a Gent called Mr Gregory repaired clogs and shoes. Our clogs had bright brass studs all round where the leather top was fastened to the wooden sole. He would put new irons on the bottom when they needed repairing.

Between the Canary pub and Crompton's pub in Mossfield Road, ran a very narrow street about 5ft wide, laid with the old duck stones. On one side at the back of the Canary pub were some very small cottages approximately 7ft wide. At the top of the street was Compton's Brewery where they made their own beer. They used to bring all the spent hops out still steaming after brewing. This narrow street and houses was called Vickers Row.

The only traffic in those days was horse and cart, and hand carts. Later on came the tea vans with solid rubber tyres on a wooden wheel. When I was a little older, I travelled to Townleys Hospital with my uncle delivering coke for their heating. The wagons were either Fodens or Sentinels.

In the winters we always had snow, we would wear mitts on our hands and carry what we called 'Winter Warmers'. These were a tin with a few holes in each end, filled with waste cotton from the mills. We would run along letting the air through to the smouldering cotton and the tins would be fairly hot. The snow would stick to your clog bottoms until you were 3 inches higher and you knocked them against the brick walls to break the snow pads off. Also to keep warm we would play at guessing. Standing at the kerb you would give the others the first and last letter on a jar of sweets. When they guessed it, they chased you across the road and back, if they caught you it was their turn to give the letters.

We had lovely summers and we would play and walk in the fields at nights and weekends. We went to bed with the doors and sash windows wide open to keep cool, not like today when everything has to be locked, bolted and barred. No—one had to think of being burgled at that time. We had policemen on the beat every day and night, but there was no trouble. The bobbies in our area were Mr Billy Brown who lived near the Railway Station, he was 6'2" and weighed about l8 stone, and the other one was Jock McKinnley about 6'1" and l2 stone weight.

Across the road from where we lived was Dornings Post Office and next door lived two large elderly Gentleman brothers called Walmersley. These two brothers were the first to push a coal barge from Bridgewater Colliery, Walkden along the underground canal which comes out down at Worsley. They had to lie on top of the coal and push it along using their feet on the roof of the tunnel.

During the 1926 miners strike, we had to go down on Harper Green Playing Fields (which at that time was a waste tip) and pick any small unburnt ashes to keep our fires going, as- their was no money coming in to buy coal.

Opposite Wash Lane was Marsh Lane and on the right side was Francis Laundry. Then came Sam Jones brick and mortar yard and next was a large allotment next to my Grandfathers house, which was a tollgate house. Then there was Miss Bridges house, she was a School Teacher and the family owned the Quarry. Down the back at the other side of the railway. Where my Grand— Parents house and allotments stood is now Highfield Primary School and Library.

At the bottom of Marsh Lane was Highfield Farm and the people in it were called Brooks. Then over the Hump—Backed Bridge on Highfield Road was Eckersley's Farm. Farther on was Morgan's Farm, in Wildman Lane was Parkers Farm, higher up was Stanley's Farm and lower dawn past the Pigtail Reservoir was Jubbs Farm.

Bye for now.