My Memories of Smallthorne by Lesley Clubman Seville (nee Knox)

We moved to Nellan Crescent in 1965. I think of it has being the first real home as a family as before we moved into the house we had lived in a flat in Bentilee and with my grandparents in Fenton, where I was born.

The family consisted of Dad, Mum, me (Lesley Knox) and my sister Amanda. I was 5 years old and Amanda 2 years 6 months. As the houses were brand new and building was still going on, everyone was new to the estate. We quickly knew most of the families and as mum wasn’t working at the time she made friends with neighbours. The Mountfords – Ron, Sheila and daughter Angela (now Angela Huish). The Johnsons and their daughter Tracy. The Woodheads who had 3 daughters. Tom Woodhead sang in the local clubs, as did another neighbour Roy Maxfield. We would play in “the backs” where mum, Aunty Sheila and Aunty Elsie would sit in the kitchen drinking endless cups of tea, and keeping an eye on us playing. We usually played hop scotch, skipping or had our “wendy house” weather permitting. As we got a bit older we would often be sent up to the local shop on Community Drive. The newsagents was Fourboys with Spar next door. Tom and Jenny Wilson – or Wilkinson ?? were the managers of Spar. Janet Bould had a part-time job there packing the shopping for customers at the till. Janet was the youngest member of the Bould family that lived on Brownley Road. She had 1 brother Robert and several sisters. Opposite our house lived The Turners. Ann Turner was a particular friend of mine. As the new school wasn’t ready at that time I have very vague memories of Smallthorne School. Mum would walk me and Amanda across the field at the back of our house. I remember the school being old, with high ceilings and seem to recall that we all had a box with a lid on it with our name, that we kept under the table ???

When Newford School opened around 1967 I remember the first day as being confusing. Lots of children of similar ages all put into one classroom. I think the teachers were working out age groups and classrooms and trying to muddle through. During the first week I was called out of class to go home with my sister as she had trapped her finger in the toilet door and the end of it was missing. The result of this was that the toilet doors were immediately replaced as they were obviously dangerous…. law suit nowadays of course. One of the teachers at the school, a Mr. Nicholson, was particularly friendly. All the children liked him. When he was on playground duty Amanda would run up to him at the end of play, and give him a kiss – certainly wouldn’t be allowed nowadays, but they were innocent times. We had a music teacher called My Yates. I remember there being great excitement when he told us that he was appearing on Opportunity Knocks, playing his own composition on the piano. He went under the “stage name” of Carl Manning. We all watched him on the TV, but he didn’t do very well.

From an early age we attended Sunday school. We both went to the Victoria Methodist on Smallthorne Bank. I remember entering through the side door. On the left was a door with a latch. I can still remember the old “church” smell, and the narrow wooden steps that led to the upstairs school room. We would sit in rows on the wooden chairs. There was a stage at the side near the window where a desk was placed. The Leigh’s were big church goers and were very involved in the running of the church. They lived at the top of Phillipson Way. Nigel Leigh would sit at the desk and mark the “Star cards” with a star using an ink pad. This showed attendance. All the children were given one each and it showed attendance throughout the year. Once we asked Nigel to put extra stars in ours (of course we got found out). At Victoria Methodist we became very involved. There was always excitement as Whit Sunday approached as we got new dresses and shoes. It must have been on that Sunday that we would gather together and sing at various intervals in the streets. I loved it when we sang “the Welsh hymn” as the men always sounded so good, especially. I recently found out that the Primitive Methodists would often sing on streets and we’re known as “rantersbecause of this. The Sunday school anniversary I think was on this day. We had been practicing for several weeks. I remember Jane Leigh, Karen and Susan Miles – Terry Miles is there dad who during the 50’s and 60s played professionally for Port Vale. We are still in contact with Karen. Also I remember Lynn Meredith and her parents Lester and Margery. Mrs. Dunn who ran Sunday school classes and old Miss Goodwin, who seemed ancient to us children.

On the day of the anniversary we would dress in our new clothes and perform in the church in the afternoon and the evening. Performing would be me and Amanda – who always sang a solo – Karen and Susan Miles, Jane Leigh, Sharon Ford, Lynn Evans, Lynn Meredith and The Dunns’ (Gwendoline and Wendy ??). I can’t remember everyone of course. After the evening performance we all received a box of milk tray each, given to us as we left the stage. All of us children thought that was great to get a box of chocolates… We had great excitement on the day of the crowning of the church Queen. I remember one year where I was taking part in the fancy dress competition. My dad and Aunty Valerie took great pains to make my costume. I went as Dickie Mint which was one of Ken Dodd’s Diddymen. I remember coming second. We also all travelled on a float through the streets of Smallthorne. I remember people on the streets watching as we went along Community Drive down Brownley Road, through Nellan Crescent and along Chetwynd Street. We were making our way to the grounds of Ford Green Road.

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