A future set in stone

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WITH school chilren breaking up for the Christmas and New Year holiday I am sure many will be finalising their lists for Santa. We can imagine what will be on those lists in this age of the technological gadget.

But what did these children have to look forward to in this weeks featured photograph just before the First World War at Bailiff Bridge School on Victoria Road?

Many would have attended the services and concerts at the village methodist church. With most parents and grandparents in the village working at Firth’s carpet mill, there would be the works parties that were held for the children of employees.

Looking back at our own childhood days once we broke up from school for Christmas, the snow was already crisp on the fields and streets and remained there until it was time to go back to school in the New Year. These children like the many others would no doubt have raced down the same sledging piste at the end of Ripley Street. In my childhood days this was, and still is, referred to as Jasper Hill.

Some years at the end of Ripley Street there would be anything from 200 to 300 people taking their turn down the well worn snow tracks. Many of you may recall when you and your sledge would end up in the stream at the bottom. Ending up there gained you a certain amount of kudos and a bit of a reputation amongst the youngsters.

These were the great days of the craftsman made wooden sledge with fine metal strips that had to be kept polished if you really wanted to make it to that stream.

Year after year we had this to look forward to, but what had these pre First World War children have to look forward to with the war of all wars just around the corner.

I am pretty sure that the future lives of all these children would have been almost set in stone. As soon as they were old enough they would be joining their parents and in some cases grandparents as well working at Firth’s.

The photograph of adults are the Bailiff Bridge School teaching staff. The man in the centre is Dr. Middleton Scales who was a teacher and then headmaster for most of his working life at Bailiff Bridge schools. His sister Mary Jane who is also on this photograph was a teacher at the school as well. She died in 1915 aged 61 and was interred in Lightcliffe old cemetery. Following her brother’s death he was also interred in the same family burial plot.

While all the children would be taught the three ‘Rs’ by Dr. Scales and his staff they would all be soon gainfully employed but earning very little. From 1900 wages barely kept up with prices, in 1912 a house in Barton Street opposite the Brighouse Parish Church could be rented for 3/3d per week but few could afford it. While in 1910 six houses on Allan Royd (the long row of terraced houses opposite Dews Garage) was withdrawn from an auction because as one lot all six could not make the £1,480 minimum bid, and not even Rose Villa a fine house in Rastrick could make the minimum auction price of £260 either.

Returning to the school class of 1910 I now know having looked through the baptismal records from 1874 of all the children baptised in Bailiff Bridge generations that the same families have lived in or just out of the centre of the village since that time. With many of the same families still here.

In relation to the three small boys on the front row, there is some evidence to say that they were typical mischievous little lads. They tried to wind a cat through a hand operated washing mangle this was behaviour that warranted a visit to Dr. Scales office, no doubt for a taste of the standard punishment for such behaviour of the time. All three went on to work at Firth’s with the taller boy becoming a manager.

The girl on the back row with the long dark hair lived in the village all her life.

I knew her as Mrs Tordoff living opposite Bailff Bridge Post Office in her senior years, and was the mother of Mr Winston Halstead a well known name in the publishing world who still retains his links with the village.