I suppose I am a Bradeley girl in the truest sense, born in 1964 in the parlour of my parents’ home, 52 Unwin street, I was the third daughter of Lillian and Samuel Rigby. My family remained in this house until they were demolished; I was born and married from this same address.

My Bradeley was basically Unwin Street, Brammer Street and Moorland view joining the two long streets together across the bottom. At a later date I recall Sherratt Street, new Unwin Street and a few others being added. My first school, Bradeley infants was at the bottom of the street. Mrs Pugh was head at that time, we had miniature bottles of milk every morning, and I recall making pancakes in the cooking corner and building a house with large brightly coloured bricks in the entrance porch, I was a fairy in the school play and wore a ballerina dress.

My Sunday school was in the next street (Brammer St) and all my early friends and their families were within those two streets.

Bradeley was self-sufficient with many shops and businesses. The early morning was brought to life with the clashing of crates and glass milk bottles, the Seal family (Marion, Jack and sons John and Andrew were out and about early doors. The village pub, the Talbot with its outdoor service for us children was an intriguing place, with its snug area and its bar where you could see anyone from the local bobby to the school board man having a relaxing drink in their ‘normal’ clothes proved fascinating.

The paper shop owed by Mary Wynn and later the Shukari family gave me my first job as a paper girl, we were out early dark mornings/evenings and weekends collecting money as well as delivering.

I recall Keyleen’s shop, the butchers owned by the Manifolds and later the Dean family, the post office ran by Val and Harry Hughes and their twin daughters Samantha and Justine, Agnes and George Pearson in the oatcake shop next door to us, Mr Pugh in the corner shop on the second half of Unwin street, I recall you could buy 5 cigarettes in a white paper bag from this shop,( not that I did though you understand) Bradeley was really quite a place to be at that time. The working men’s club ran annual trips to the seaside, three or four coaches would be filled, you’d get spending money and treats on the coach, my best friend’s family used the working men’s club so I was always lucky and got invited. There was also a fruit and veg business on moorland view, Browns I think, we used to ask for pallets to try and float on the reservoir and occasionally we’d be given apples to eat too by the brown coated warehouse man, we took these on our vogues across the reservoir as essential supplies

The village bonfire night was always magnificent and ended days of us gathering wood and all sorts to burn, Guy Fawkes, jacket potatoes in foil at the base of the fire, warm toffee apples, and hot dogs all added to the event.

Fridays were marked by the fish van driving around the two streets and that very distinctive smell of the man calling out to potential customers. The rag and bone man with his shire horse and cart and the knife sharpener on his bicycle made frequent and regular appearances, the black faced coal man with his heavy sacks up on his shoulders came tipping them into the bunkers in the yards we all had.

At the top of our long long street there were metal gates, I never saw them closed but I recall them there, perhaps at an earlier time they were closed to make the street secure? The reservoir was a place we used to play often, catching newts, tadpoles, baby frogs, with the occasional self-made boat attempt across the water. Beyond that was Wilkies the old brick yard which we believed was haunted and the mall hole where we used to collect little broken whimsies from the ground and give them to mum as gifts to be treasured.

The streets were active, the families diverse and lively, the community close and tight knit, everyone knew everyone, and if you misbehaved someone was bound to tell your mum before you even got home.

My memories of the Methodist church in Brammer street are warm and endearing, the Anniversary, the prize giving days, sunny smiles, the eisteddfod and the basic moral fibre which formed part of your essential development.

The football fields and the railway lines were for a while out of bounds due to the obvious dangers and the distance away from home, though that time was nowhere near as long as my parents thought. Walking on the wrong side of the bridge on the little footplate over the tunnels through the fields was a skill that needed frequent practise to perfect, and perfect it we did. Gathering ball rushes from the swamps was a great way to earn some pennies, the tall boys would wade in with us smaller ones on their shoulders grasping at the plum rushes.

Our junior school was along Bradeley lane, past the large overhanging tree on the right-hand side of the lane (with a great swing on it) and into Smallthorne. I recall the snow falling higher than me on the sides of that road and we were still all walking to school and staying there for the day, frequently the heating would fail but we still stayed, we were a tough lot. We played marbles and Chinese skipping, seven ball and rounders, tic and of course kiss chase.

I loved the village, the community and the closeness, those first major mile stones in my life were all within those streets, my friends, my school, my first job, my first boyfriend, Christmases, birthdays, wedding days, all these were part of village life for the many families within them. Some village characters are still vivid today, not for their businesses or vehicles but just for their presence, their personalities and that little bit of something they added on a daily basis to normal life and to the characters we were and have since become.

With kind permission of Sue (Rigby) Leese

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