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FOREWORD
 
During a series of meetings in the Spring and Summer of 1990, a number of older residents of Blythe Bridge and Forsbrook met in the High School Community Centre to relate their personal memories of childhood and experiences in later life.
The informal discussions and conversations were recorded and later transcribed. Some editing has been necessarily introduced to give a flow and continuity to the narrative. Wherever possible the text reflects a verbatim record of individual reminiscences.
 
The stimulus for the meetings and organisation came from Zoe Munby of the Workers Educational Association.
 
The following are extracts and a direct result of memories from the contributors who included; Tom Dennis, Ruth Green, Vi and Frank Powner, Freda Hilditch, Ben and Audrey Tompkinson, Geoff Hill, Molly Aston, Norah Arrowsmith, Sylvia Shenton, Mabel Cole.
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A conversation and exchange of memories by Freda Hilditch, Molly Aston, Norah Arrowsmith and Tom Dennis. In some items the details are a summary of all contributions
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Also listed in the memories page is a poem by Mr. Peter Jackson (Nephew to Tom Dennis)
Mrs Hilditch recalls her childhood and early adult life.
 
We used to live in a cottage at the end of Caverswall road and no-one seems to know that it was called Barn End and it was owned by Mr T C Wild, of Blythe House. My father had an allotment nearby for which he paid one shilling (5p) a year. We kids arranged that he would pay the rent for the allotment near to Christmas in the hope that Mr Wild would remember the season of goodwill! We all trooped off to pay the shilling and Mr Wild said, "Just thank your father for the rent money and for you four I think I ought to treat you!'. So he gave us back the shilling!.
Our teachers were the Misses Salt. One was big and the other was little. They-lived in a house called 'Cartref' in Stallington road. The smaller of the two was full of fun and big Miss Salt was serious. At one time during my schooldays I was desperate to have my hair bobbed, but parental refusal delayed this until my Mother died. Shortly afterwards I had my way and went to school very proud, but Miss Salt took not a bit of notice Eventually I drew her attention to my pride and joy but her answer was very deflating : "I've seen it and I don't like it. Go away, girl, and don't mention it".
I remember when they had an election. Sir Joseph Lamb (Con) was the sitting candidate and Meakin was the Liberal. These lads in barefeet were running up Forsbrook bank shouting -"If it's work you're wanting when you're a man, vote for Meakin and ***** old Lamb!". Well, we went in and told Mother that my brother was swearing and shouting, so she fetched him in and gave him a good hiding! Years later my Father told me that he didn't have a good hiding for swearing as I thought, but for shouting for the wrong party ! Mother was a Conservative!
Norah Arrowsmith
I loved schooldays and when I had a bad throat I was sent home and my Mother had the doctor who said that if it was no better I would have to go away to Cheadle. To avoid this because I was dreading going to the isolation hospital I drank some paraffin in the hope of a cure!
Summary

When scarlet fever was an epidemic in Forsbrook, Ned Plant collected all those afflicted and took them to Cheadle. Then there was the 'flu epidemic-in 1927, I think- and a lot of people died then. The angel in the churchyard is a memorial to Mrs Barlow who was a victim. Once someone threw a stone and it chipped a hand off the angel and a police-man came to the school. We were really frightened of what would happen to us if we ever threw a stone at the angel again. We respected the police They used to walk about and the sergeant in those days was Sergeant Dale. He knew everybody in the village and he knew your family history. He lived in a cottage on the Marsh where Lizzie Hill lived- -opposite Green lane, and it's still known as 'Bobby's Entry'.

 

Freda Hilditch

I was the youngest in the WI. For years and years I used to cut the cake because of this. Folks used to say, 'What do you want to go there for? - a lot of old women'. Do you know I had more fun in the WI than anywhere else in life. They don't seem to have the fun now- they're so sophisticated now- it's all business and posh hats. They all look as they're dressed up for a wedding.

 

Freda Hilditch
Has anyone ever mentioned Arthur Wood and Bernard Jones?.... the two postmen. Bernard Jones was a character who used to run errands for everyone and liked to know everybody's business. When I had my second son he came with the post and I opened the door to him with the baby in my arms, and he said to me, "Whose is the babby, missus?" I said, "What baby?" "This", he said, indicating my son. I said,"It's mine". "That's done it," he replied, "that Annie Greatbatch and her sister. I've run all their errands and I've done all the errands on this Marsh, and do you know, missus, there hasn't been one good enough to tell me you're going to have one!"
Summary of all conversation
They say that the War Memorial should have been put where the Library is now, but I can't see T C Wild knocking down his boundary wall for that. It was a very high wall and you couldn't see over it and I remember when the lorries used to fill up with water from the millstream when they took 'Millenium' (?) flour to Fole dairy. There used to be two or three cottages there. Slinns lived in one.
'Course, the church was the centre of the village and the War Memorial was put on church ground. When it was dedicated we stood in the field opposite-where the school is now-and the proceedings were conducted by Colonel Campbell-Bannerman.
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Mrs Mabel Cole of Blythe Marsh recounts her early days with Beech's Fair when they visited Forsbrook.
During the First World War it was housedwhere the Labour Exchange is in Mellard's Yard, Newcastle. When Uncle George came out (of the army) they went on the road. My Dad worked at Kerr Stuart, the locomotive works, and it closed down. That was the reason he joined up. As far as I can remember I was eight years old when we started to go on the road. We only came to Forsbrook in October and we left there a month before Easter and we used to go on to Rudyard. We came to Forsbrook from Stone. The first week in Stone was after the Nottingham Goose Fair. The first week in November as far as I know was called Forsbrook Wakes.
When I was very young I can remember there used to be an agricultural show in the mid 1920's, up Stallington lane. I was held in one of Averill's fields and I can remember coming to that at least three times. It was washed out three years in a row and it was never held again. This was round about 1924-25.
They had hobby horses and chair-o-planes and then there was just the side shows. I can remember asking once why it was that Pat Collins had such a lot and we hadn't. The answer was that Pat Collins didn't go to war but Uncle George did!
I remember all where we used to go in Cheshire - Shavington, Haslington, all those shows. And Caverswall- Rum-turn-tidy urn, Your-Mother-says-you-conna-come, Your-Father-says-you wunna-come, Rum-turn-tidy-urn. That was the nearest Sunday to July 12th.

I've been to nearly all the schools in Staffordshire.

 

The following recollections are an interchange of memories from Molly Aston and Norah Arrowsrnith who recount their childhood playtimes and work experience at home and in the workplace.
We used to play all sorts of games, such as one where you dropped your handkerchief behind you and one stood in the middle.. .was it called Bobby Bingo? And we played Tippit and we stood in line and if you got round in time you were 'not out'. We spent our childhood without any toys, the only toys I ever had were a bowler, a doll and a top and whip At Christmas time the only thing we had was a stocking, that was all. It had nuts, oranges,a sugar pig and a new penny. We used to think it was marvellous. But we never craved for anything any different and we never did any damage to other people's property. We might have tied two doorknobs together with a piece.of string and we played 'I Fly' in the Square at night with Adamses, Torn Dennis and Winnie Jackson. Winnie always wanted to play 'The Wind Blows High'. She never wanted anything else but 'The Wind, the Wind, the Wind blows High'. Oh!, the times we played that up the Green, all going round in a circle. Another game we played and sang was ;-
  My name is Sweet Mary, my age is sixteen, My father's a farmer, lives on the Green, He has no money to get me a silk, And no-one can take me away, Ha! Ha!
And then we sang:-
  In and out the windows. In and out the windows. In and out the windows, as you have done before. Stand and face your lover etc... as you have done before. Follow him to London etc... as you have done before.
We played all the games in Jack Orchard. Then we had that lovely scout hut and we had some nice times in that. They used to have treats in there and they used to come from town and bring the children to play in Eddowes' field. They used to run races and my mother used to help with the teas and the washing up and she earned five shillings (25p) ; that was a fortune in those days.

Then we used to go to Cheadle on Lymer's brake, sitting on side seats. I took Winnie who was two years younger than me. My mother told me to look after her and she had a very nice white serge frock that her auntie had sent her. The first thing she did was to fall in the fountain at Cheadle Mansions and I had to sit in the kitchen whilst her frock dried out. That was my treat.

 

Norah Arrowsmith
My mother worked on a potbank and on Good Friday there were no trains or anything and she walked to work from Forsbrook to Shelleys in Fenton She used to have to go at 7am after looking to us. Ted and I in the wintertime used to meet her train and we had a lantern with a candle in it. It was a four-sided glass lantern because there were no other lights. We had to look after ourselves and once when my mother was ill, my father said to me, "Can you make a boiled pudding?" I said that I would try- I was only eleven at the time. So I made the pudding and my father said it was lovely. Thereafter until I left school at 14 I had to make the boiled puddings.
Mother worked Saturdays too, as everyone else did then, till dinnertime. She used to come back on the one o'clock train. Mind you, when we were in service we worked all day and we were never off duty from the time we got up till bedtime, apart from your day off.

I left school at 13 and had a day job, in service first, then I worked in the Post Office with Mrs Cratchley for a time both behind the counter and housework. Then if I remember correctly I worked for Kents-Master Potters. There were a lot of master potters here then, they supported the church. We haven't got them anymore. They lived in Grindley lane, Stallington lane and Caverswall road. There were the Brewers, the Radfords, the Irvings, Aynsleys, Wilds, Ridgways and Taylors in Caverswall road, he was a great supporter of Grim-wade Memorial Hall. Then there was George Hawley, solicitor. He used to have a lot of lady friends!

 

Summary of discussion between Freda Hilditch, Nora Arrowsmith and Molly Aston.
Eva Blackburn always said that the Church Institute was built by the miners from Dilhorne. There was a billiard table in there and there were lots of activities going on. It was a lovely place and the things we had included a Bible Class, Boys Brigade, Girl Guides, Girls Friendly Society, Mothers Union, Mrs Kent's Mothers, Mrs Allerton's Mothers on alternate Monday afternoons. When it fell into disuse the Church took it over because no-one would claim it, so it became known as the Church Institute, but the church never paid for it. It's all gone now. Another thing that's missing is the horse trough opposite the entry in Clifton Terrace.
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OCCASIONAL INTERJECTIONS
We used to make Nettle Beer and sell it at tuppence a bottle!

Father would always go for a walk when we girls had a bath in a tin tub on the hearth.

 

Molly Aston gives a fascinating account of her early family life and an account of her experiences below stairs' in service.
My name is Molly Aston and I lived at 11, Cheadle road, Forsbrook in an old stone cottage which is still there. Opposite was the Post Office and a clog shop run by a family called Owen. My father and mother were George and Hettie Leese. There were five children-four daughters and a son. We had a very happy childhood in the village and in the Square when I was a tiny girl I remember when there was a cottage right in the middle of the Square with a little wicket gate and an old lady used to sit on steps smoking a clay pipe We used to play in the Square; it used to be beautiful. There was a big chestnut tree on the corner of Chapel street and we gathered there and played top and whip. There was a big family of Adamses that lived opposite who later ran buses to the seaside and one of the sons had a bakehouse on the Marsh and sold bread. And we played bowlers with a hoop because there was no traffic whatsoever. The only traffic we had was a farm cart that ambled through with a big shire horse. The other excitement was footmen coming from Dilhorne taking Sir Manningham-Buller to the station. At teatime they used to fetch him back. That was the highlight of our lives. Other than that~Doctor Hawley used to come down in his governess cart at 4 o'clock with a pony and a boy used to hold the reins The doctor used to see everyone who was poorly and he very rarely sent the poor people a bill. He was a very kind doctor. He came from Chilton House, near to the White Cock. It later became Doctor Bradwell's surgery.
We went to the village school, the Church and the Institute. We had a lovely life. We had all our get-togethers there. We had a Bible Class and I went there until I was married; that was where I met my husband. We went on a trip to Alton Towers and he asked me for a dance. We used to meet in the Institute and we also had dances in the Scout hut every Saturday night- a shilling (5p) hop. The pianist used to play whilst reading the 'Sentinel' and he never made a mistake.
The highlight of the village was when we had a Whist Drive and Dance in the Church school. We won a waltzing competition We've been married for 63 years. At primary school we were taught to write with sand in a tray with a stick. Then we had slates and later we had paper with lines. I can also remember the teachers Iriaking a plum pudding at Christmas time and Mr Bridgwood (Vicar) being in the room at the time. The day I left school at 13 I went straight into service. All my other three sisters went into service, one after the other. The gentry used to call on my mother to see if any of us were available, we had such a good name. When I went into service at 13 I never went back home except for holidays. I started at Woodwards up Caverswall road and she took me to see the sea at Llandudno when I was 14. I'll never forget seeing the sea for the first time as long as I live.
Later I went to Minshulls, which is now Shoetime. They were high class grocers and they had a bakehouse at the back. They used to make trays of custards and pork pies and I used to make the custard for them in the kitchen. The pork pies were made with a hole in them so I melted gelatine to put in. They were sent across to the sale yard at the Smithfield every other Monday. Annie Adams, the other maid, and I used to get up at 6am every morning and at 5.3Oam on Saturdays and Mondays in order to black lead the grates and do the flues. As a reward for that we got a bowl of porridge before we went to bed. This was during the First World War.
I never regret going into service because I saw a side of life I would never have seen otherwise and I met some very nice people.
I later worked at Mountfords in Caverswall road and they had a nanny who worked in the nursery looking after two little children a boy and a girl. I was the maid and I had to go p and down the nursery stairs. Nanny got the 'flu in 1918 and she died. Whilst she was ill I looked after her. I used to take her food and hot water up the nursery stairs. The lady of the house learned how to make curry because her husband was a serving soldier in India and I've never tasted lovelier curry in my life. We had lovely food there. Everything was locked up in a big cupboard including tins of chocolate biscuits, and I used to think that when I was married I'll have a tin of chocolate biscuits. When I was training to be a kitchen maid I learned all the arts in the kitchen and on wash day, and oh!, what washing. - Mother used to come to help me with all the childrens' dresses. They used to be starched and threaded with ribbon with a big sash and then they would go up to the nursery on a tray to be threaded. Eventually the lady of the house wrote to my Mother to see if I could be trained as a Nanny. They used to make the dresses in fine lawn (very fine linen) and hand-worked lace from London. They used to put it on a brown paper yoke and stitch it. I thought I could never do that. Anyway, Mrs Mountford got me a job at Halls in Caverswall road, but they used to go out such a lot at night and I was terri-fied staying at this big house all by myself with only a small dog for company. I could've gone out but I daren't walk under those trees in Caverswall road. I used to love it when they gave dinner parties. I learned a lot there, bottling fruit and so on.
My previous employer wrote to see if I would go back. In the meantime they had left Caverswall road and moved into a very big house-The Beeches-in Dresden, and the nursery was in an army hut. I went back there as a parlour maid and used to wait on table. I used to put on my black dress with cuffs and a cap.
I also worked in gentleman's service to Herbert Aynsley, the Master Potter. He was an old gentleman and he used to ring the bell in the morning for me to lace up his boots before he went to business. When he came home I had to take them off for him. At supper time they had a Stilton cheese under a dish with a big round lid and Mr Bridgwood, the Vicar, came every Friday for high tea, when they had lemon sole.
Then I went to Barlow's, but I wasn't happy there. She was T C Wild's daughter. Now T C Wild lived in Blythe House and he had nine daughters and two sons. My sister Winnie worked there as a 'tweeny' maid. She used to help the front parlour maid in the morning and assist the cook in the afternoons. She divided time between two jobs-that was why they were called 'tweeny' maids.
Anyway, T C Wild lost his first wife and re-married. All his daughters got. married~except one, and.T C Wild bought them all a house. When the Barlows had a baby I was nursemaid to the child., They were a bit on the mean side.
My happiest place I ever lived at was Williamson's of Sunnyside in Stallington lane. I went there as a cook. I made bread, oatcakes, jam, marmalade, and bottled fruits when they were in season. I was very happy there, in fact, I was married from that house. Mr Williamson did all the running about for me and arranged everything.

I remember that my wages at Minshull's was two shillings and sixpence (12p) a week, plus my keep and when I was married I earned eighteen shillings (90p) a week, plus my uniform.

 

MISCELLANEOUS Contributions from different group members
In Forsbrook where the do-it-yourself shop is now, used to be a place for coal and paraffin oil. As children we used to fetch coal-about a quarter of a hundredweight~(28lbs), in a barrow.
My father was a roadsweeper and he had a length of road right up to the cemetery and they used to sweep the road all the time.
We used to play marbles in the school yard and we would draw circles and the other boys would run around as if chasing one another. In reality they would put clay on their boots and run over your circle in order to pick up your marbles!
There used to be four public houses in Forsbrook ; the Roebuck, the Butchers Arms, the Bulls Head and the Miners Arms. The first three hadn't got a house between them!

The tramps used to walk through Forsbrook and Blythe Bridge from Cheadle Workhouse to Stone Workhouse. They would knock on doors to beg a mug of tea and a round a bread and cheese.

 

Ben Tompkinson -recounts events from his childhood, taking part in the family business and an incident with St. Peter's church bell.
I was born in 1919 in Church Terrace, the top house. Three later we moved to Green lane. The day we moved there was a terrific thunderstorm; it was about July, 1923 and it rained, thundered and lightened from about 6 o'clock till midday the next day. It was tropical and very frightening. My Uncle Walter helped us to move and every time he went past the Duke of Wellington he nipped in for a quick one. Uncle Walter liked a pint. When he finished he took off his belt-it was one of 3inch leather ones they used to wear-and wrung it out. It was a terrifically hot day. Then the storm blew -up. It was the worst storm in living memory.
My father was born in Longton and his father was a bootmaker. There's an advert in "The History of Longton" with him in. He was one of eight or nine children. He was farmed out to his Uncle Harry Tompkinson, of Tompkinson & Bettelley. They were the big~contractors of the day. They built nearly all of Longton ; Sutherland Institute, Post Office, Police station, and all of Dresden and Normacot,or most of it. Harry, my Great-Uncle had one daughter and my father was reared by him as a son. Uncle Harry was a very wealthy man. He built Ash House, The Firs and The Poplars here in Blythe Bridge. Uncle Harry died in 1922 50 then my father started on his own as a general builder and undertaker.
As a boy of 12 or so I was given jobs to do in the business and I used to undertake with my father, delivering coffins and putting the bodies in and so on. Thought nothing of it. We used to buy all the timber for the coffins and dry it in the kitchen over a big American stove. It was all green timber straight from the tree and we dried it in the hope of shaping it up and polishing it ready for the funeral.

I started school at Blythe Bridge Church School but I had to transfer to Caverswall because as a Catholic I couldn't stay on at Blythe Bridge. We walked to school in all weathers including times when the snow was level with the hedge tops. About 1930, the Vicar-Rev Bridgwood- was given a great bell, and my father, being the general factotum locally, was asked to hang it in the church tower. So my dad and I and Sid Hodkinson rigged up the blocks and tackle and started to hoist up the bell. I was located on the ridge of the tower about 6O feet up on a plank, acting as a sort of counterbalance to the bell on the other end of the rope. We eventually got the bell hung and my dad says to Sid, " Give it a pull". When he did so the tower began to rock ! We eventually convinced old Bridgwood that he couldn't have that sort of bell up there, so that's why it's only the clappers that move and not the actual bell.

 

One of the principal contributors to this collection is Mr JT Dennis of Forsbrook, who, at 90 years of age, can still recall with remarkable clarity, his childhood in the early years of this century, and his subsequent experiences at work. He was for many years a loyal servant to St. Peter's church and he relates his association with his contemporaries.

 

Here is his story.
Stories of my Life from 1901 to 1990 by J.T. Dennis
I was born in a small cottage situated in swan passage, near to Ford's farm in Blythe Bridge, on November 30th, 1901. I was the youngest of four children. My father had a blacksmith's shop nearby where he did all the shoeing for horses belonging to farmers over a wide area. Sadly, my father died when I was at the tender age of 4 years and consequently my mother was left with four of us to keep.
A short time afterwards, we moved to Chapel Street, Forsbrook, into a very small cottage, the rent of which was 1 shilling and sixpence per week (7 p). It goes without saying that we were extremely poor and soon mother took over a small newspaper round which covered part of Grindley lane, Uttoxeter road, Caverswall road, and most of Forsbrook for the distribution of the 'Evening Sentinel'. The newspapers used to arrive at Blythe Bridge station at ten minutes past six in the evening but much later on Saturdays.
When I became seven years old I had to deliver in part of Grindley lane and Uttoxeter road, from the railway station to the White Cock Inn. My sister, Laura, delivered the Forsbrook section. In addition to this, Mother had to take in washing to survive. Our only help from the Parish was a fixed sum of two shilling and sixpence (12 p) paid each week by the Cheadle Relief Society, called Parish Pay.
As time went on I obtained a job at Beech's butchers shop as an errand boy. I had to be there by 7am every Saturday morning and worked until it was time to deliver the newspapers. I continued to do this until I reached the age of 13, whilst being educated at Blythe Marsh Endowed School, under the schoolmaster William Higgins, who resided at 'Dinbren House' Caverswall road.
My mother not being in the position to enable me to have a secondary education, required me to leave school and begin my own living. I was fortunate to obtain employment at a coal wharf in Caverswall road belonging to Foxfield Colliery Company, as a yard man, where I had to assist customers who came there for coal supplies to load their vehicles. My working hours were from 7am until 4pm, my wage was fixed at 6 shillings (30p) per week. I was not allowed a proper lunch break if the customers continued to arrive, so I had to spy my chance to eat in between times when no one was needing assistance.
Six months went by and I decided that there was no future in staying on, so I decided to move on. I managed to get work at Callow Hill farm, near Dilhorne, owned by a Mr T W Stones. I soon began to take to this kind of work and I learned much about farming. In a few months Mr Stones told me that he was leaving the farm and going to a place called Park Manor farm at Mill End, which was a small village on the outskirts of Audley. The year 1915. January 15th of that year was the day appointed for the removal, so together with the other farm labourer - a man named Charles Thorley - I went to harness two horses into two carts and to prepare for the journey by road to Audley - a distance of 18 miles. When we started out Mr Thorley led the way, the route being through Forsbrook, Dresden, Trentham, Newcastle, Chesterton, and Bignall Hill and on to our destination, Mill End. Soon after we started, snow began to fall and when I reached Dresden, proceeding up the hill near to Longton Park, my horse which I was leading, slipped in the middle of the tram track.
At the same time a tram was descending the hill but fortunately, the driver seeing my predicament, just managed to bring the tram to a standstill. With the assistance of two passers-by, we got the horse back on to its feet again. Mr Thorley, being ahead of me, had gone out of sight, not knowing what had happened. It was not until we reached Trentham where we halted for a short time for refreshment that he was aware of our mishap. As I had been given no food or money, Mr Thorley gave me sixpence which enabled me to buy a few cakes and a drink of water. After a short rest, we then proceeded on our way passing through Newcastle, Chesterton and down Bignall Hill, through Audley until we reached Mill End, our final destination. After we unloaded our vehicles and stabled the two horses, Mr Thorley - who was returning home the same night, made his way to catch the train at Alsager station. I slept for my first night at a nearby farm, ready for arrival next day of my boss, Mr Stones and family. With springtime approaching a great deal of work had to be done rightaway and I soon taught how to plough the fields as well as other kinds of farm work. It was not long before I could plough 1- acres a day with my two horses. A total of 45 acres had to be ploughed before we could start sowing corn and vegetables. As I mentioned, in my first job after leaving school, my weekly wage was only six shillings (30p). I soon discovered that I had not improved myself financially, as I was only going receive 28 per year, which included my keep. I had to work long hours, sometimes as long as sixteen hours each day, mostly during the hay and corn harvest. Labour was very scarce at this time during the First World War and additional help was impossible. I was the only person to work at the farm but somehow Mr Stones and I managed to carry out the necessary jobs.
I shall never forget the sound of the factory sirens on Armistice Day, November 11th, 1918 at 11am, when I was alone in the fields.
It was then I decided to terminate my employment and having completed four years, I returned home via Alsager station, in January 1919, to Blythe Bridge. Back home I had no job for some considerable time until I once again recommenced to work at Foxfield Colliery. My first job was on the spoil tip working outside. I soon got a dislike for this kind of work and being anxious to work underground, I asked the manager if he could let me work below when the opportunity came along. I waited six months and my chance came but only on condition that I was willing to work on the night shift. Soon, however, my luck changed and I was able to transfer to the day shift commencing at 7am and finishing at 3pm, an eight hour working shift.
At first I was put along with a man named Arthur Wright, who was an experienced roof maintenance man, from whom I soon became acquainted with this important work. The roof supports in those days were mere wooden props onto which cross-members called bars were fitted. As time went by I soon began to realise that I was a sort of stand-in man, being called upon to under take any persons job when absent. Consequently, I soon found myself doing a different job each day. This was something I began to like, because I gained a lot of experience of underground work.
In the pit bottom there were two men who attended to the two cages, one being called the head-onsetter. He was the person who made sure that each tub of coal was safely in the cage before giving the signal to the winding engine man on the surface to wind it up. His opposite number on the other side attended to withdrawing the empty tubs as they were sent down ready to go on to the workings at the coal face to be filled again. Sometimes I did his job if he ever was absent and by this means I gained more experience. At the same time I watched the head-onsetter giving signals to the winding engine man above. Little did it occur to me, that one day; I might be called upon to undertake his job if ever he was absent.
One morning, alighting from the cage, I found that he had not turned up and that an official was operating the signals as the miners were being let down. As soon as the under-manager saw me he said "Tom, I shall have to ask you to undertake the onsetter's job today, as there is no-one else. What about it?" As I had no alternative but to accept I carried on quite successfully, although I felt very nervous for the first half-hour, sending hundreds of tubs of coal up to surface until the end of the shift. Then came my real test. I had to give the correct signalling to the winding engine man, so that he would know how many miners were ready to ascend the shaft. The rules were; One signal for coal and three signals for men. The gages were double decked; the lower portion was for coal tubs and the upper section was for men. This part held only six men, so it took 1- hours to get several hundred men up safely. It was only during the day shift that the coal was withdrawn, but there was an afternoon shift composed of only a few men who worked on the coalface. There was no one in the pit bottom following the day shift and so I was the last person to ascend with nobody to signal me up. The procedure adopted was that I had to give six signals, then as soon as the cage landed I would step inside, close the safety gate behind me and in ten seconds the cage would be wound up. This was a most interesting job, but it carried a great responsibility and to have made one mistake could have been disastrous. Unfortunately, I was taken ill in the spring of 1922 and had to spend a month in hospital. When I came out the doctor advised me not to work underground again, but the colliery manager was very considerate and decided to give me a job in the blacksmith's shop along with two other men. Here again, I found myself having to take on other jobs, sometimes in the fitting shop, or the joiner's shop, and to my surprise I would sometimes be sent down the pit to attend to the shaftwork in the pit bottom because the head onsetter had failed to turn up.
In the course of a few weeks I was put to work on the track along with my stepfather J.Jackson. Again, in similar circumstances as before, the shunter had a habit of being absent by helping farmers with the hay harvest, so I would have to do his on the locomotive and the shunting. My main job was, of course, trackwork. This was my last job because sadly for me, the miners strike started in March 1926 so I was automatically thrown out of work. Incidentally, I was then working on the long, straight length leading to Red Lane shunt, which is now, called The Summit.
It was then I decided to have a go at trying to commence a coal business, which proved successful, and I operated for the next 40 years. To do this I had to buy my first motor lorry, which I obtained from Chatfield's Ford garage in Hanley. They invited me to travel to the Ford Motor Company's works at Trafford Park in Manchester to buy it. I was told to meet one of their staff at Stoke railway station at 9am, one Monday morning in August 1926, who would be holding two trade plates under his arm. My guide for the day was a young man named Gerald Bailey from Bucknall, who, later in 1941, founded the well-known Bailey's of Hanley in Leek road. He later became a very close friend. In addition to the Manchester trip, he was sent with me again the next day to teach me how to drive and maintain the lorry.
To begin my coal business I had to purchase 20 coal sacks and a set of scales from R.D. Cresswell, the ironmongers, in Longton. Progress was very slow and difficult at first, as I had an opposite number, a man named William Burgess, who, it goes without saying, did not like me!
My first start was in Uttoxeter road, Blythe Marsh, by the Duke of Wellington Inn to Brookhouse Garage. I canvassed every house and sold only 13 cwts (13 x 112lbs) out of a load of 1 ton (20 cwts).
Disappointed though this was, I did not despair and being determined to carry on I tried Stallington road the next day and so on, until I covered the whole of Blythe Bridge and part of the surrounding area.
In four years of good progress and purchasing my supplies from the Newhaden Colliery in Cheadle, I obtained coal from Foxfield Colliery and Florence Colliery in Longton. I bought another lorry - Morris Commercial - and employed another driver in order to meet demand for coal.
At the commencement of the Second World War in 1939, work became much tougher and very hard going. Consequently, I had to employ two more staff, having taken on coal deliveries for four other coal merchants. Sometimes we had to work all hours in order to cope and there were occasions when I would be delivering supplies in Stone at 9 o'clock in the evening blackout.
In June 1966, having completed 40 years of hard and sometimes very difficult work, I retired and handed the business over to my brother, including the vehicles and tools along with 600 customers on the books.
It was back in November 1919 that I met my wife-to-be. We were introduced by Mr John Owen, a friend of mine, who had a boot and shoe repair shop in Forsbrook. We soon became very attached, but the courtship lasted 7 years owing to the difficulty at the time of finding somewhere to live! It was virtually impossible to get a rented house anywhere, or even to buy one. One day, however, I was pleased to get lodgings for a while with an old widow living in Cheadle road, just below were now I live. It is now 62 years since I moved into my house, 78 Cheadle road, Forsbrook. I was married in 1926 at St. Peter's Church, Forsbrook. According to the deeds of my house, it was once a public house, called the Miners Arms, built in the year 1856. The proprietor's name was John Robinson.
My association with St. Peter's lasted from 1908 to the present day (1990).
I joined the Church Sunday School in Forsbrook when I was about 7 years of age in 1908.
This was the same year that the Reverend E.W. Bridgwood was inducted to the living on Advent Sunday.
I attended regularly except for the four years that I was away from home during the 1914-1918 Great War. When I returned home I rejoined the church and in 1927 was voted on to the Church Council and very soon became a Sidesman. As time went on I seemed to become popular with all my fellow worshippers and was asked by the Vicar if I would act as the Free Will Offering Secretary in the vear 1935, which I accepted. In 1941 at the Annual Church Meeting the Parochial Church Council Secretary-Mr W Hampson, retired to become Churchwarden. I then took over in his place. Later in 1952, the vicar at the time was H.C. Elliot and at the Annual Parochial Church Council, he failed to obtain anyone to act as Churchwarden, there being no volunteers. As we left the meeting he approached me and asked if I would act for him as his Warden. I already held three Offices so I had to give it much thought, but later I acreed. Very soon afterwards Mr Hampson who was the Treasurer, died and there being no-one else to fill his place I auto-matically became the Treasurer. In 1953 Mr C. Shenton agreed to act as my Co-Warden. The following year the Rev. H.C. Elliot resigned the living and I soon found that Mr Shenton was becoming a great help to me. Since I was the Vicar's Warden I was responsible for arranging not only the Sunday services, but having to play a role in the general running of everything connected with the Church's affairs.
One of my important duties was trying to obtain preachers for each of the three Sunday services and to be sure that every-thing was going well. I always kept a record of who was coming to preach, three weeks in advance, in my diary. Funerals, marriages, baptisms and a grave-digger were events that I had to deal with as they came along. Sometimes I felt that my work had no ending, having my own coal business to attend to, coal rationing was in force at the time which added to my difficulties. At the end of the interregnum, which lasted 3 months, I was delighted one morning during the Summer of 1955 to receive notification from the Registrar at Lichfield that the Rev. E. Clift was to be appointed to come and take charge of the Parish. He had been the Rector of St. James Church in Longton.

I remained in office as Vicar's Warden for the following 6 years and retired from all my commitments with the exception of Sidesman which I still retain, following a period of 63 years, including 40 years on the Church Council, In addition, I joined the Special Police on the outbreak of WWII and served for 21 years.

 

Mrs Ruth Green recalls an anecdote with a top and whip.

well, my whip was wet and I hit my top and it went through somebody's window, so I waited for them to come out. She said, "Is it your top that's gone through the window?" "Yes", I said, 'can I have it back, please?" Of course, my dad had to pay up-I think it was one shilling and sixpence (7p) to pay for the glass. My dad said I ought to have run off!

 

VARIOUS ITEMS THAT CROPPED UP DURING DISCUSSIONS
There was a Friendly Society that started in the Duke of Wellington - Foresters-which was a semi-secret organisation and Big Sam Cooper with his big moustache used to stand guard on the door.
There were hard times in the old days in Forsbrook. Poor People got the only benefit from Cheadle which was two Shillings and sixpence (12p) a week, called Parish Pay. A man used to come on a bicycle every Wednesday morning with these half crowns to pay to the poor. He used to dole it out from a house right opposite the Avenue on the Marsh.
 
Tom Dennis recalls details of the houses and occupants of Blythe Bridge from his intimate knowledge gained when he delivered the 'Sentinel' as a boy, circa 1910.
Starting at Ford's farm and I think the Farm has been in the occupation of the Fords for well over 100 years- I well remember old Mrs Ford. As you go up Grindley lane there wasn't a house after Ford's at all until you got to Birkholme drive. There was a house at the end of the drive and another opposite plus two semi-detached cottages which have been knocked down now. They were demolished when Grindley lane was widened-it used to be a very, very narrow road. On the right hand side from the bottom of Grindley lane the first house was Allerton's, then Herbert Aynsley's, then Williamson's; then Hudson's - Sutherland House. They were all Potters. After that was Grindley Cottage where Salome Dainton lives.
 
Beyond that, higher up was a big double fronted house owned by Walters, the auctioneer. He was the auctioneer at Blythe Bridge Smithfield sale. He built Grimley's butchers shop and the hairdressers' shop by the level crossing. He also built those shops on the Opposite side. Higher up was a solicitor named Morgan and then Wildbloods, the owner of the colour works who lived there for years until he later moved to Blythe Bridge on the main road.
The start of my 'Sentinel' deliveries was Minshull's the grocers as it was in those days and the first house (along Uttoxeter road) was Robinsons, then Sims-he was part owner of Foxfield Colliery- then Brammalls-they've got a stained glass window in the church-after that -Boden -a school teacher-then Bennion , who moved into Blythe House later on.
 
Now Aynsley's drive was named after Harry Aynsley, the Master Potter-the boss-and he lived in a very big Victorian house - Portland House, where the school is now. It was one of the nicest houses in Blythe Bridge that ever was built and was such a tragedy when it was taken down. He owned the ground right down to the main road. I didn't want to walk up Aynsleys drive if I could help it. I wanted to meet him off the ten minutes to six. train with his copy of the 'Sentinel'. I hoped he would be on it and there he would be coming down with a red rose and a bowler hat. So I gave him his paper and he never said 'thank-you'.
 
Now in the mornings he had a gardener named Shaw-he lived in Railway Terrace- and that man had to walk to Blythe Bridge station every morning with Harry Aynsley to receive orders for what he had to do on that particular day. Harry Aynsley had no time for anything or anybody... he had to get to the station so instead of telling the gardener at the house, he wanted to issue instructions whilst walking to the station, and that was the state of things.
On the right hand side beyond Grimley's shop (Butchers) there was a row of houses there, then came the old telephone exchange and beyond that another row which are still there now. (1990).. All this property was owned by Doxeys very strong Catholics and they lived on the corner of Adamthwaite drive- the Misses Doxey, there were three daughters. Just as you go into Rail-way Terrace, still standing, on one side, is an old building that was once a Catholic school, and the man who taught in that school was 'Daddy' Barnes. It's a coal house now. Opposite Harry Aynsley were the Horlestons-the sweet merchants in Longton and they were the only people in Blythe Bridge who made their own electricity. They had a single cylinder engine and every night I could hear this engine going chuff, chuff,chuff, chuff.
 
On the left hand side coming down (Uttoxeter road), there were mostly Potters- Harry Broadhurst, Swinnertons, Barlows and Middletons- all opposite Miss Massey's farm, which still is ! Then there were the two Miss Simisters who kept the White Cock. There wasabowling green at the back and I used to go up there with a dozen or so extra "Sentinels' under my arm and I used to sell them to the men on the bowling green. Lower down,near Adamthwaite drive, there used to be a school run by a Miss Townsend. And I've mentioned the old telephone exchange before. It was run by some people called Bott and it was a primitive thing-it was opposite where the bank is now. Swan Passage originally contained seven houses and I'm told that before the station was built this was the main road to Cheadle.
 
Mr Dennis also recalls his memories of Blythe Marsh and Forsbrook from nine decades of life in the locality.
I well remember delivering 'Sentinels' to Blythe House, the Bennions were in occupation then and I was once taken up the tower for a wonderful view of Blythe Bridge. the Marsh and Forsbrook. They owned all the land around the house right down to Chapel street.
On the corner of Stallington lane there was a yard there which was a stonemason's yard and gravestones were made there. In fact, a lot of gravestones in the church came from there. Just a little higher up was a blacksmith's shop run by Harry Wright, who was taught by my father. Opposite him was Lymer's the coachman. They had a hearse which they used to hire out although they were not undertakers. One of the first cars was owned by them-a Ford- and I remember seeing old Lymer himself and George, his son, driving. Later they had a coach or rather a brake and two horses which took us kids on a Sunday School outing. All round Cheadle, Tean and back again. Then the Lymers moved on to buses.
 
Blythe Marsh - the Police station was opposite Green lane in my day and the policeman was called Bobby Bailey. He was the scare of the village. He had a big belly on him-he was IT I He was a Policeman ! He used to come out at night with a black dog and a stick. The man who followed him was Sergeant Stanley. Down at the bottom of the Marsh there was what they called Macsons Sandhole and a man called Jack Hill every day of his life carted sand from there to Blythe Bridge station. I was in my glory if I could have a ride on his cart in the school dinner hour.
Going down into Forsbrook there were sandholes on the right and there used to be a grocers shop where John Owen later had his clog shop. I remember Grimwade Memorial Hall-that was taken down in 1927. There was a large upper room and three or four smaller rooms upstairs as downstairs. The other smaller chapel in Forsbrook then was the Band Room when the big chapel was going and the bandmaster was Bott, from the telephone exchange in Blythe Bridge. Later, a man called Davis took it over.
 
Every Christmas, my rival coal merchant, Will Burgess, was in the Band and they all would come around the village with a lantern on a pole. They would walk in the houses without knocking and wish everyone 'Happy New Year to you All' Then the 'Guisers' - a gang of chaps who would black their faces and cover themselves with strips of coloured paper. One of them would go in a house and the following play-acting would take place:
One of the men would walk in and pretend to be ill and fall on the floor saying "Send for the Little Doctor !" All would say, "In comes Little Doctor!". Another man would come in~and say,"What's the matter with thee, young man?" The 'patient' would reply, "Oh, I've fell on the floor, doctor. I don't feel well at all". Then the 'doctor' would say, "Drink this out of this bottle - let it run down thy throttle. Now get up and walk !". The 'patient' would then get up and the doctor would exclaim, "Haven't I cured this man, as safe and sound as any man in England can !".
 
It was our entertainment but unfortunately the First World War ended it all.
Turning now to Caverswall road. I remember that there was a brickworks on the corner of Caverswall Old road and Fred Wootton was the owner. He made bricks and chimney pots from marl obtained from the manhole there. There were two circular ovens something like bottle ovens and when you stood in Forsbrook at night the whole sky was lit up when they opened the oven doors.
Then there was the coal wharf which was closed down in 1947 when the mines were nationalised. 'Course, it's the Foxfield station now.
Smithfield sale yard. Blythe Bridge was a hectic place then with cattle, sheep and horses being driven along the roads. There was a sort of building where the car park is now where all the animals were weighed.
 
Forsbrook Bridge. As a final item let me tell you that I had an 18 months contract with my lorries working for the main contractor who was P.D. Hayes of Heaton Norris. It was widened and drained, I believe, in 1932;
 
 
MISCELLANEOUS
Do you remember Mary Cooper? Used to live between the chip shops and always stood in the doorway with her cap on. When she died, and she was well over 80, she'd never been further than Longton in her life!
 
At the corner of Dilhorne road was a toll house and Arthur Wood's parents kept it and you had to pay threepence (one and a half pence) to go along Dilhorne road. They had a riddle and all the money taken was put in this riddle so that the silver coins - the threepenny bits and sixpences went through, but the larger copper coins stayed on top and the Woods' kept that and the silver went to the council!
 
In the early years at school we were graded in 'Standards' from one to six. But there were some dunces who never got beyond Standard 1 and I remember one chap who stayed at school in Standard 1 with the little ones until he left, and he was as big as a man!
 
After living in the Potteries since childhood, Forsbrook seemed to be way out in the country, There were no buildings erected on the site at all except for the builders' hut, the sales office and what appeared to be a great many holes ready prepared for the foundations. This was in early 1960 when Forsbrook was still a small village and Portland Drive was the first new building to take place.
The 'bus fare to Longton at this time was ninepence - the approximate equivalent would now be three and a half pence.
Anon
A poem by Mr. Peter Jackson
The Good Old Days
 
Our Mother & Father Poor but Blessed in the Good Old Days
They met and they married a long time ago
They worked for long hours when wages were low
No TV,no wireless,no baths; times were hard
Just a cold water tap and a walk up the yard.
No holidays abroad, no carpets on floors
They had coal fires and they did not lock doors
Us children arrived, no pill in those days
And they brought us up without any State aid
We were safe going to play in the park
And our old folk were safe going out in the dark
No Valium, no drugs, no LSD
They cured all our ill with a strong cup of tea.
 
No vandals, no robbing, they had nothing to rob
They felt rich with a couple of bob
All people were happier in those far off days
Always kind and caring in so many ways.
Milkmen and paper boys would whistle and sing
A night out at silent films was our weekly fling
They both had their share of trouble and strife
They just had to face that was the way of life.
Now they have passed on we look back through the years
We dont think of bad times or troubles and tears
All seven of us remember our blessings and our love
And we shared together with them, we thank God above.