Memories of childhood in Bradeley by John Bourne
My first memories of childhood are of living with my mother, father and sister,
and an old man. The old man was a Mr Bream and, as I learned in later life, my
family was lodging with him. The house was, I think, 42 Unwin Street, Bradeley,
and my sisters tells me that my favourite pastime in those early years was
throwing the old man’s stick into the street for him to fetch. At this time I would
be four years old. Some time after this, my mother got tenancy of a house in South
Street, Bradeley- number 15,next to my Gran who lived at number 13,with her
son, my Uncle Bill.
Now at this time there was still a war on, and everything was rationed, but we
were better off than most because my father was a long-distance lorry driver and
he acquired lots of things that others couldn’t get – fruit, sweets, cigarettes. My
Uncle Bill was a chef at the miners’ hostel in Bradeley (this was situated on Chell
Heath Road, where Brook Medical Centre now stands). He used to be allowed the
left-overs when meals were served, so we got cheese, tea, coffee, bread, milk,
bacon – in fact, most things that everyone else could not get.
Most of the other men who lived in the village were miners, and they got a coal
ration which they could not use up before their next ration was due, so things
were swopped- a bucket of coal for a couple of cigs, or ajar of jam. This is how
we lived and we didn’t do too badly! The miner’s coal ration was always referred
to as a ‘load’ and was delivered by horse and cart, owned by a Mr Hulme, who
had a small-holding at the north-east end of the village. The Hulme family made
ice cream, which you could buy in a wafer or comet, or you could take your own
dish (this was after the war).
The village of Bradeley was covered by the Co-op breadman with a horse and cart
And the Co-op milkman – MrBloor, who owned a farm near to Bradeley village.
Mr Bloor had a pony and trap and the milk was in chums. You could buy half-a pint
dished out by his ladle. Mr Bloor always wore leather gaiters that came up to
his knees. And of course, Mr Hulme delivered coal on a horse and cart. Now, as
you can imagine, with all those horses around the village every day, the villagers
had some of the nicest roses growing in their back yards. Arguments went on as to
who owned the’ deposits’ left by the horses. Many times I’ve seen people running
with bucket and shovel to get this prize possession only to be told by their
neighbours “That’s mine – it was done outside of my house!”
The children spent the winter months making slides, having snowball fights and
suffering from chilblains. In the spring we looked for birds’ nests, and in the
summer months we often used to take a bottle of water and walk to Knypersley
where we could swim in the pool. There was never money to buy bicycles so I
used to walk around scrapyards, looking for parts to make my own and my sister’s
bikes. Tyres were never a problem as Bradeley had its own rubber re-cycling plant
so the tyres and inner tubes came from there. They never knew they were
supplying me with these things! At Banky Brook we played ‘Jumping Lickers’:
this was jumping the brook at its widest parts- the one that jumped the widest
part without falling in, licked the others. At the end of the summers we searched
for pignuts- these are nuts that grow underground. They have a carrot-like top,
and are good to eat! In the autumn months we played in the freshly cut grass that
the farmer had prepared.
I started to work when I was about ten years old – after school and at weekends.
Before and after school I delivered papers. I was paid five shillings. This included
doing a Sunday paper round. Also on Sundays I worked for Mr Latham, who was
a friend of my fathers. Mr Latham had a pig farm and my job was to go around the
village with a wheelbarrow to collect all the week’s potato and vegetable peelings
which, by prior arrangement, had been let in buckets behind people’s back gates. I
took these peelings to the pig farm to be boiled up. While the swill was being
boiled I helped to clean the styes (some of the pigs were ‘monsters’ and there was
only one that I trusted!). When the swill was ready I helped to drain off the water
and feed the pigs. For all this I got no pay at all! I think that there must have been
some secret arrangement between my father and Mr Latham- but I never knew.
On leaving school I secured a job as an apprentice electrician but the wages were
so low that my mother could only give me five shillings a week pocket money, so
I left that job and got work at Sneyd Colliery. After training, the pay for a haulage
hand was four pounds a week, out of which I got £1 pocket money. My father
would not allow any of us to pay board at home as we had to ‘turn all up’ as he
said. I think his idea was that the more we gave our mother the less he had to
contribute. The coal face and better money beckoned: when I was old enough I
trained for the coal face. At first I was classed as a loader but when it was thought
that my work was good enough I was classed as a collier and went onto full pay,
which was about three pounds, three shillings per day.
I left my job in the mines after I had an accident.
Thanks to John Bourne for allowing us to share his memories.