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New Bury as seen by me 1918-1990

by Sally Wordsworth

The usual way to begin something is to start at the beginning. So I'll start this article the way a comic writer of long ago started one of his funny stories, which went like this " The day war (1914) broke out," that's the day I came to live in Farnworth, I was 5 years old.

We didn't actually live in New Bury but just off Glynne Street. I often passed through going to Little Hulton to see Grandpa. Even then I used to think how lovely it was, it wasn't even a village, more of a hamlet. Cottages here and there, a shop here and there and St James Street and the Church. It was one of those visits to Grandpa's that my Dad and Mother spotted a paper in the window of No 9 St James Street "House for sale" and in no time at all we were living there. That was 1924, I was then 15 years old and St James Street has been my abode until now, only crossing the road to No 12 when I got married.

The best way I can explain New Bury to you is to take away all the council houses and put fields there. Starting at the bottom end of George Street no houses at all the way up to the Century Mill. Facing the Mill Mr Hume's shop, all the rest of the way up open land to the New Inn pub on one side and the church at the top. One side of Barton Road stood on its own facing the back of the church wall. Then all open space right to the back of Kildare Street. St James Street finished at the church and the four houses and one shop. Tennyson Road and that estate was all farmland.

Facing the Church was some three-storey houses (very old) and the six houses beyond, open space then until the last two on the Church side, which stood alone. The houses near the Church were not built for many years. The four flats that stand alone, that's were New Bury Methodist Church stood. The rest of the street was the same, except they have been knocked down our one and only butchers shop on my side of the road and the grocers shop on the other side, plus an old row of cottages.

Going round the corner of the butchers shop was Lower Street with about four houses, they came down with the shop.

In the early years there were some more cottages. On one of those cottages was a sign like a street sign, that sign said New Bury.

Facing them was the old stone Day school. My sister spent the last three years of her schooldays there. The bungalows near the present Day School were not there then that also was open land. Behind where I now live was a tiny street, were Mr Naylor's Pub called the Spinners Arms stood.

There was also Higher Street with seven houses – these still stand. The backs of these houses are on Barton Road that was open land. The council built prefabs on this land during 1939-45 War.

These were taken down when Thornton close bungalows were erected, which I am sure was the last council property to be built. These are just behind the back of St James Street near the primary school.

Coming back to the school at the top of Piggot Street, there then came Hanbury's grocers shop, Molly Fishers chip shop, six old houses with terrific long lobbies for some unknown reason, Old Joe's Cloggers shop, one more cottage owned by Mrs Steel and her son, he was an ambulance driver. Next came the Social Circle Cricket Ground, the open land to the row of cottages standing were bungalows now stand.

Then came Langdale Street, one row of cottages, an open space then another row of cottages. On the corner was Guy P Jones, chemist.

Crossing over coming up the other side was the Post Office. The big factory that stands there were Eli Dyson's, it now belongs to Silcoms. From there onwards to the to the two houses facing the Cricket Ground was open land but part of it was used as a football ground.

There was also a Church Army hut. From there to the top was Mr Morton's hut; he was the one man who mended all the shoes in New Bury I'm sure. One more rows of cottages, then Mr Clare's greengrocer shops on the corner. When he moved that shop became a ladies hairdresser for many years. All the area round where those cottages and shops stood have been removed to widen the top of Piggot Street, which was dangerous even in those days.

I don't think that there are many people who remember this, but in Piggot Street was a Toll Gate. It went across the Street from the entrance of the Cricket Ground to the two houses on the other side.

That brings us back to the school again. The houses facing the school are the same, but now there is an estate off Buckley Lane, going toward Little Hulton, which stretches to Westland Avenue. All the land there including what is Westland Avenue, Elm Grove, Hilary grove, Crescent Avenue, Brookhouse Avenue was all farmland stretching to Worsley Road. This was known as Brookhouse Farm. I remember the foundations of that estate being dug. German prisoners of war did it in 1943 or 1944. They arrived every morning at 8.00 am and left at 5.00 pm to go back to Bury Barracks.

One day I had a little experience with one of the prisoners. I was walking on the pavement when one of the prisoners popped up out of the cuttings. I stepped back just before we bumped into each. In his broken English he apologised saying " Sorry lady me not harm you." He just touched my hand and said "English people very kind, me no want to fight anyone." He went the way he had come.

Coming to the shop facing the Primary School on Buckley Lane, this has changed many times. It was owned by the Stones family when I first lived there just a few houses down. The last one of these houses went up a step. Two sisters lived there; one was a nursery nurse Leyland she was called. They were both good living people and attended St James's church to the end of their lives.
There was a space then there big enough for two shops. Many years after, two shops sprung a Co-operative Butchers and Co-operative Grocers. So we then had two butchers and two good grocers, a Co-op stores and Hanbury's. We had no longer to go into the town centre to do our weekly shopping. I for one was grateful, so were most of the older people. After this row of houses, which are still there.

Anyone reading this may think it's very disjointed, but that's as New Bury was a little bit here and there. That was all changed when they began to build homes for the people in other parts of Farnworth who lived in overcrowded areas.

Maybe I should tell you this; Piggott Street and St James Street were dirt roads for quiet a long time. In time we got a pavement, then the middle of the roads came later. Now who would think St James Street is a bus route.

This is nothing to do with the structure but may be of interest. About 1921 to 1926 New Bury had a Jazz Band. The members came from different parts of the town. Roughly 40 of them, one big drum, one side drum, 37 with Tommy Talkers. They won prizes wherever they went, so I'm told, my husband was one of them. They had practices in a room at the top of Mr Naylor's pub in Lower Street. My husband has told me of the many completions they won and where they went. Of course he was 11 to 16 when the band died out owing to the bands master Mr Butler, getting older.

When we met and he found out where I lived, that's when all this about the band came out. He loved it up here; he loved the fields and fresh air. After three years we talked of marriage. I'm not going into town to live, I was told, so look out for a house in New Bury.

That's how we came to number 12, and I don't think I'll move now at my age. I hope I'm not boring you, but since I've told you about the Jazz Band, I may as well tell you of three incidents that have happened in New Bury sometime between 1945-1947. No 1 was the murder of one boy and another left for dead. No 2 an abduction, No3 an attempted murder, but the little girl got away. These four children and their parents I knew.

The field at the top of St James Street is still the same today. The two boys were playing in this field when the man struck. Quentin Smith was brutally murdered and David Lee left for dead. He was seen by a lady who lived in the houses nearby crawling in the road trying to get home. She picked him up and ran to his home. The police were soon on the scene. But sad to say that the murder was never solved.

No2 was the abduction of Sheila Fox. She was taken from the playground of the Primary School on Friday dinner time. The last she was seen was riding on the cross bar of a bicycle with a man. She has never been seen since.

No3 was a little girl going home from school when she was snatched and dragged behind the chapel. She was tormented by this man, he had a knife and was nicking her on the backs of her hands as she tried to protect her chest. Somehow she managed to get away and run down the slope into Barton Road and into the arms of Mr Bath, the headmaster. He gave her to some lady on the road leaving her to get an ambulance. Mr Bath was a cripple and limped badly, but he gave chase after the man. The is built up now, but in those days it was open and the attacker was seen by the headmaster running over fields. He would be in Cleggs Lane in no time at all, but Mr Bath had to give up as he was a much older man and was losing ground all the time. The girl was about nine when she came home I went to see her. She looked like a pin cushion. How many stitches she had on her hands and chest is nobodies business. He has never been found.

I can tell you mothers and fathers watched their children for years. The people in the houses made a rota and one parent would bring about 12 or 14 children from school, no child was left unguarded. Time has passed, no-one talks about these happenings.

I must be like an elephant I never forget.

I could go on but I'm going to finish as its past my bed time and I'm getting writers cramp.