Queensbury Our Memories Our History

This article is published with the kind permission of the

Digital Content and Copyright Coordinator

Brotherton Library

University of Leeds






 This booklet has been written & produced collectively by:

Molly Barritt, Jack Barritt, Ivy Bates, Alice Bradley, Vera Clipson, Emily Dawson, Harold Farrar, Margaret Farrar, Dorothy Foulds, Eric Foulds, Nellie Carroll, Elsie Glover, May Haggis, Joan Harry, Alice Holmes, Mabel Jagger, Ada Keavey, Anthony Keavey, Muriel Kirby, Pat Link, Alice Maude, Edith Miller, Vera Miller, Mollie Normanton, Betty Patchett, James Patchett, Edith Priestley, Joan Rbbertshaw, Clarence Robertshaw, Edith Robinson, Gladys Rushforth, Charles Smith, Emma Smith, Evelyn Smith, Julie Smith, Ruby Spencer, Alice Sutcliffe, Helena Taylor, Mary Wade, Stuart Wade, Hilda Ward, Kenneth Wetherell, Margaret Wetherell, Emma Wood, Leonard Woodhead, Sydney Woodhead, Florence Overton

with editorial assistance from Steven McGiffen & Jill Liddington

who all met together at Queensbury School, as a community history class for retired people, between autumn 1984 & summer 1985.


Front cover:   Queensbury Station, about 1925

George Overton in his railway uniform


June 1985


This booklet has been written by a number of the older inhabitants of the village of Queensbury, people who remember what life was like here fifty, sixty & seventy years ago. Queensbury as such has not existed for so very much longer than that. It is, as Charles Smith, the former headmaster of one of its schools, put it, ‘a child of the industrial revolution’. And even compared to other northern textile communities, Queensbury is some­thing of a latecomer. It was given its name in 1863 because the more respectable members of its population objected to the intemperate associ­ation of its previous name, Queenshead (which was indeed taken from a local pub, once beloved of travellers of the pack-horse trail from Halifax to Bradford.) By then, the economic life of the village revolved around the textile mill established by John Foster in 1835 & developed by his son William Fosters’ Black Dyke Mills. The mill, which continue to expand drama­tically up to the late 1860s, dominated the life of the village.

Queensbury’s history is above all else the history of a mill village. But it is also the history of a people who, by creating their own institutions – the chapels & societies around which social life revolved, the Co-op which touched every corner of village life – maintained an independence of mind and spirit of which they are justly proud. In a booklet as short as this it has not been possible to give more than a flavour of the life of this unusual community. Much will inevitably have been left out. But we hope you will find what has been included interesting, informative & entertaining.

Where people came from

Queensbury’s population mushroomed enormously in the mid-nineteenth century; but since then,   has grown into a remarkably stable community. We looked at the census a hundred years ago; this suggested that by 1881 labour was largely fruited locally. Joan Harry & others analysed a sample of 200 Queensbury households from this handwritten census. This sample contained 866 people in all, approximately one eighth of the population of the village then. We discovered that of these, no fewer than 779 (ie 90%) were born in Queensbury or within a 10-mile radius of the village. Of the remainder, a further 29 (3½%) were born elsewhere in the West Riding, & 2½% in Lancashire & other parts of Yorkshire. Only 37 (4%) came from further afield & many of these were living-in. domestic servants, working in   great houses.

Certainly, most of the older people in Queensbury today were born in or near the village. Many can claim parents & even grandparents of similarly local origin. Evelyn Smith, who spent her working life at Black Dyke Mill, knows that all four of her grandparents were born in Queensbury. For most people, it is difficult to trace further back than this. Two sisters, Alice Bradley & Emily Dawson, remember grandparents who worked at a local farm that, Alice recalls, had been in the family for generations. Generally the  picture is of a textile community with a population that has remained remarkably stable  over three or four generations. Undoubtedly, some people


The Nicholson family at Pit Lane in Mountain, a hamlet just north of Queensbury 1898 Alice & Emily’s father, Matthew Nicholson, was then about 16.

did come to Queensbury looking for work even after the mill’s dramatic expansion had slowed down. For instance, Florence Overton’s father, George, originally came from Lincolnshire, where he worked in service as a footman & his wife as a cook. Later he took up railway work & came to Queensbury as a porter. Here, his daughters, Florence & Nellie, went to Black Dyke & into burling & mending.

Over all, though, Fosters & other local employers seem to have been able to recruit most of their workers locally, attracting people from the immediate surrounding countryside with the prospect of higher wages, better housing & the liveliness & community of urban life. Queensbury perhaps had the best of both worlds, for the countryside was never very far away & yet reasonably steady jobs were usually available. And it was these people, usually born within a few miles of the village, who found work in Queensbury – & of course found husbands & wives. They settled into homes, produced children, established chapels & societies, & made for themselves an unusual hilltop industrial village with its own life & culture. It is this life, this cult­ure, these people which form the subject of the remainder of this booklet.

A Queensbury childhood

For many of Queensbury older inhabitants, memories of childhood are memories of poverty. Yet it was a poverty relieved by the ingenuity of parents – by them resilience of family & community life, & by the ingenuity of the children themselves to find pleasure in activities which cost little or nothing. Bill Smith can remember when as a little boy he would be taken to the end of the street by an older girl ‘to see a pappap’:

We would sit on the kerb & wait, perhaps for an hour or more, until a car, or more likely a van, passed by. The success of the expedit­ion was achieved & we would be taken safely home.

Sydney Wbodhead recalls his childhood in the twenties – in Ambler Thorn, a hamlet on the Halifax Road west of Queensbury:

When I was six I lived at Royd View. The house had a living roon & a back kitchen, two bedrooms, outside toilet across the yard. My Childhoods memories are of a life of order within the household. Father corked at Stock’s brewery with my uncle Ben & Grandfather. Uncle Ben lived next door to us & Grandad at the old Bar House top of Brewery Lane. I used to wait at the top of the lane for them coming home from work. Sundays in summer Dad took us for walks down Shibden. At night we played the gramophone with a big horn.

Friday nights was always bath night in a big tin bath filled up from the side pan with a lading can.

Many will remember the games that Leonard Woodhead, also a child in the twenties, played in the streets of Queensbury: Relievo, Tin Can Squat, Up for Monday, Blackpudding, & Stroke-a-back.

As Leonard put it, the ‘rhythms of life’ seem, looking back, to have been more pronounced in those days. Parents did the worrying – about money, about security, about health. Children played, helped with the housework, looked forward to the next meal. Occasionally the routine might be shatter­ed by misfortune, but it could also be interrupted by more pleasant events. Edith Miller, a small girl during the First World War, remembers the excitement of receiving a visitor from overseas, her ‘uncle from Canada’ who came to see her family while on leave in “hospital blue”.’ Alice Bradley recalls another, more typical interruption of routine:

My Auntie was having a baby at our house. The doctor came & left his bag on a very high chest of drawers. Being very curious I got up on a chair to peep in, thinking the baby was in the bag. The doctor came & caught me. I said we had heard the baby crying.

(The baby, Vera Clipson seemed to survive this incident: she is now a member of our class, along with her cousins, Alice & Emily.)

The rhythm of life then was largely shaped by the needs of households often Short of money & space, & of parents whose working days were long & tiring. Emily Dawson remembers her widowed mother ‘getting up for work at 5.30’ just before the 1914-18 War:

She would leave my sister & me sat in the dark with just firelight, until she came home for breakfast at 8.30, when we had to be ready for going to school. I had to play little mother & make sure my sister arrived at school.


Of course, when school began, it imposed its own routines. The first day at school invariably made a lasting impression. It certainly did for Leonard Woodhead

In 1925 a fire at the Baptist School caused problems, & other premises were sought, one of these being Albert Street Meth­odist Chapel which was close to our house. I well remember my mother deciding that this was an ideal opportunity to start me off at the age of 4½, & I have vivid recollections of my mother & Miss Oldfield dragging me across. A. very tearful first day followed. Miss MacDonald was the teacher, & I spent the day dropping tears on picture books.

Leonard soon grew to like school. So did Edith Miller; .she had started as a five-year-old at the same school a few years earlier, & still retains fond memories:

Miss Fawthrop was one of the teachers in the Infants. We all loved her; she was pretty with a marvellous disposition. There was a beautiful rocking horse which was put back in a kind of stable when we each had had a ride. We used to bring a mashing of cocoa for our dinner; this was along with perhaps a currant teacake. The kettle was boiled in another small room we who stayed to dinner ate in this room. We only stayed when the weather was bad.

Particular lessons stand out too. Joan Harry, who went to the Queensbury Church School from the age of seven, recalls “with horror” the mental

arithmetic class which:

the headmaster took with the whole school, 7 to 14, lined round the walls, the biggest at the back & the smallest sitting cross-legged on the floor. He stalked around wagging his cane calling out things like ‘6 + 4 – 3 x 4’, then suddenly pointed to one poor child & said ‘You!’

Kenneth Wetherell, who also attended the Church School, used to go for ‘woodwork to the Council Offices down Albert Road’; this was something which, the school log books suggest, had been regarded as a great innovat­ion only a few years earlier. Joan, however, recalls that for the girls ‘handicraft’ for the whole of one term consisted of ‘unravelling little squares of cut-up garments to make stuffing for a cushion.’ As well as the ‘three Rs’ & craft subjects, there were religious studies, sport & music, geography & history. In fact, the subjects taught differed very little from those found in modern schools, though the actual content & method of teach­ing were often very different.

We looked at the logbooks of one or two Queensbury schools & these confirm the memories of many people who attended them sixty or seventy years ago, that in those days it was not always easy to obtain an education. The schools were there, of course, but many things interfered with their ability to do the job for which they were designed. Shortage of fuel might force them to close in cold weather, as it did the Church School in April  1912. Sometimes the weather was so bad the children could not reach the school – as the headmaster of Foxhill complained in December of the same year. In addition, epidemics of diseases like influenza, measles, scarlet fever & whooping cough were virtually commonplace. It was not unusual for schools to be closed completely in an attempt to control contagious dis­eases. In 1919, for instance, a major outbreak of ‘flu forced the closure of all Queensbury schools.

Before the early twenties there was another problem too. Many of the older Children were simply too tired to do their lessons. From the age of twelve, they were working about 32 hours a week as well as attending school.

Queensbury’s half-timers

Half-timers used to work half a day at the mill & the other half at school. The system allowed 12-year-old children to get exemption from full-time

school, & did not finally die out – amid considerable controversy – till the early 1920s. To become a half-timer in Queensbury, you had to be born before 1909 & to reach your twelfth birthday before 1921.

Alice Holmes, who has lived in Queensbury all her life, became a half-timer in 1912. Her first job was – like so many Queensbury children – in the spinning department of Black Dyke Mill. (Though later Alice left the mill when she was fifteen & went to work in an office in Halifax.) Gladys Rushforth & Alice Maude both became half-timers the following year, 1913. Gladys, who was born in Denholme but has lived in Queensbury for 81 years, began working as a half-timer in the Black Dyke spinning department – like Alice Holmes before her. And Alice Maude, who lived at the Shibden end of Queensbury, became a half-timer at Spencer’s Mill, under North Bridge in Halifax (though later she too worked at Black Dyke for 36 years).

A few years later, towards the end of the First World War, Elsie Glover & Alice Sutcliffe – who have both lived in Queensbury all their life – became half-timers too. Alice can even remember the exact day she started work: 18th November 1918, on her twelfth birthday, just one week after Armistice Day. Alice went to work as a doffer in the spinning department, &, in all, worked at Black Dyke for 35 years. Elsie also started in the spinning dep­artment, & worked at Black Dyke for a total of 48 years.

Queensbury people born in 1909 missed being able to be half-timers by just a few months. Emily Dawson, whose birthday fell at Easter, remembers her mother being annoyed: Emily’s half-time wage would have been welcome at home. But Mabel Jagger, on the other hand, did not mind: she enjoyed being at school.

Half-timers used to earn 3s 6d a week if they worked mornings, & 2s 6d if they worked afternoons. But, for this small wage, they had to work extreme­ly hard. Elsie, Gladys & the three Alices recall haw they would get out of bed at 5.30am, gulp down a mug of tea & munch a slice of drip bread; & then at about ten minutes to six, dash off to get to the mill before the gates closed. Even if they were just a minute or two late, they would be forced to walk down Mill Lane & then creep into the mill through the ‘penny ‘oil’. There, a penny would be deducted from their wage. They remember that the gateman then, Dan Cullen, was a miserable person with horrible peering eyes which missed nobody.

The half-timer would go dashing up the stairs in Black Dyke, to be sure of being by their spinning frames when the engine started at six o’clock. Breakfast was from 8.30 to 9am with drip bread jam & bread or treacle & breadplus a rug of tea. {For this, you had to stand with your pot under the geyser.) Alice Maude, because she lived at Shibden, used to eat her breakfast at the rill; but Gladys, who lived in Morpeth Street nearby, would go home for her meals.

Then they worked on till 12.30. Dinner was a cooked meal, liver & onions or meat-&-potato pie always home-made. Then at 1.20pm it was time for schooluntil 4pm. Gladys remembers that if you did not put in an appear­ance in the classroom, the School Board man would be round sharpish to see your parents. Sc the half-timers  Elsie, Gladys, the three Alices – were only too pleased when Saturday dinner time came round each week, & they could escape this routine & go & play with their friends.

Mabel Jagger was born in 1903 & so missed being able to become a half‑timer by a matter of months. However, like other Queensbury children before her, Mabel still had school certificates filled in for her by

the head teachers.(before 1921, a child with the right number of attendances at school would be allowed partial  exemption from school to work in the mill on reaching their twelfth birthday.)

Mabel has preserved her three attendance certificates. This one, her last, shows her living at White Acre Farm & attending Clayton Church of England School. In her   final year at school in 1921, Mabel attended school for 391half-sessions – mornings & afternoons

At the mill

Long after the half-time system was abolished, right up to the Second World War, a substantial proportion of Queensbury people left school completely at fourteen & went to work in the mill. Most of them, of course, went to Fosters Black Dyke Mill. According to the 1881 census, William Foster of Harrowins Hall then employed 2,400 people in his worsted mill; by 1931 only 1,199 Queensbury people are listed as working textiles. So, although the mill was in slight decline earlier this century, it still represented a very large proportion of the village’s population. Indeed, as well as textile workers, the mill also employed other people – especially skilled men in ancillary trades. Even people who intended eventually to work in other trades, went into the mill initially. Many apprenticeships & other forms of training did not begin until a year or so after school-leaving at fourteen & so textile work was all that was available for the very young workers. Also, many people who spent most of their working lives elsewhere, worked for a year or two at the mill at some stage of their career. Mill wages were relatively high & work was usually plentiful,

There were, of course, many different jobs to be done & trades to be learnt inside a big mill like Black Dyke. Leonard Woodhead listed 87 from memory. But as Emily Dawson & others confirm, most youngsters ‘had to start in spinning.’ Alice Maude can recall what was often a typical mill girl’s progress:

12 years old…….. spinning

16 years old…….. twisting

18 years old…….. winding


Then, in Alice’s case, She got married when she was twenty,  she started again at Fosters When her family grew up, & stayed there till she was 63.

A typical.. first job was that of doffer in the spinning department. Emma Smith, who started as a doffer at Paul Speak ‘s mill in Mountain in 1932, describes what that job entailed:

we worked in a large room which had a lot of spinning machines & twisting machines in it. I was very frightened at first but we got used to it. There were eight of us altogether including the head doffer, George Furness. We had to put empty bobbins on spindles when the others were full. We had to make sure the ends of the wool were properly round the bobbins as we had to piece the ends together. We started work at 6.30, breakfast at 8.30, dinner at 12 o’clock. We worked from 12.45 to 5 o’clock. It was very tiring work & I changed my job when I could to spinning. For my week’s work as a doffer I got 17s 6d.

Emily Dawson, a doffer at Fosters’ Mill, remembers that, ‘being very small I had difficulty in reaching the bobbin rail’. Nevertheless, if you were the last to finish your share you had a smack on your behind with the Lifter belt, so you soon learned to be quicker than the rest.

May Haggis started as a burler & mender at Thomas Priesley’s Mill at Horton Bank Top when she was 14. Her mother wanted her ‘to learn burling & mending because she wanted me to have a better job than my two sisters, who worked at Fosters’, one in the spinning & one in the twisting.’ Weaving was another job to which those who stayed on at the mill aspired. Edith Robinson worked as a plush weaver:

It was very noisy in the weaving but you soon got used to it & learned to lip read. We had to get our piece off for Tuesday evening or we had no wages, but the week after we had two.

When the plush weaver finished a warp it took time to set her loom up  again & she would be sent home. ‘We had to wait a few days sometimes. It was like a little holiday.’ But ‘if we made a lot of mistakes we were fined.’

Discipline in Queensbury mills, like elsewhere, was strict. Muriel Kirby remembers that you lost money if you were so much as a  minute late. Others recall the great power of the overlookers & ‘walking bosses’. But the power of the mill owners themselves extended far beyond the walls of their factories. On the single family of employers, the Fosters, anything between a quarter & a third of the population of the village depended for work. Indeed, virtually everyone in Queensbury depended in one way or another on Black Dyke, the wages of whose workers kept the shops & the businesses going in the village. Fosters’ power did not, of course, stop there; for they also owned a large proportion of the property in Queensbury, includ­ing some of the private houses, & exerted great influence on local govern­ment, church & schools. A measure of their power is reflected in the account given by Leonard Woodhead of how he came to work – against his will – in the Black Dyke offices. On leaving school, Len got the job he wanted, training to be an analytical chemist in Bradford. He never completed his training, however, as he explains:

In the spring of 1937 my father, a Black Dyke joiner, was amazed to receive a summons to the phone at the joiners’ shop to speak to ‘Mr Ronald’ (Foster). He was told that there was a vacancy in the office & my name had been recommended. As a result, I started in the office the following week.

So, regardless of his feelings, young Leonard had to leave his job as a chemist & start at Fosters’.

Jobs in Queensbury

Although Fosters’ dominated the town in so many ways, they were of course only one of the many local employers. Up at Mountain was the mill owned by Paul Speak & Sons; & many people travelled to Halifax & Bradford for both textile work & other jobs. In Queensbury itself, the Co-op – or to give it its full title: the Queensbury Industrial Society – was a major employer, while within the neighbourhood could be found various kinds of engineering, joinery & other workshops, builders, hauliers, painters & decorators. The 1931 census, covering the Queensbury Urban District Council area, lists no


Each circle represents the waged workers, men & women, in Queensbury in 1931. The major group it excludes, therefore, is women worked as housewives & mothers. Despite this, the two circles clearly indicate the high proportion of Queensbury people who worked in the mill.

fewer than 208 metal workers, 100 woodworkers, 144 builders, & 50 painters & decorators among the men of the village.

At one time Queensbury was almost as well-known for its stone as for its cloth, & until the 1930s there was even a small colliery still working. Eric Foulds has plotted the coal pits, quarries & clay pits,& notes that they all lie at the western end of the village – in what used to be the Northowram township. Sandstone was frequently quarried locally; indeed, the Swales Moor quarry is still operating, & the facing flags of the new Halifax Building Society came from Jagger Brothers Quarry.

The 1931 census lists 103 men in mining in quarrying in Queensbury, but both industries were in decline by then. Few miners & quarrymen are still alive today, but sate Queensbury people recall relations who had such jobs. For instance, Margaret Wetherell remembers that:

When I was a girl my stepfather worked in the quarry at Swales Moor. During the school holidays my mother used to make him a hot meal & I had to run all the way, to reach the quarry before it cooled. It was very hard, sweaty work in the summer & he always took a bottle of cold tea to quench his thirst. In the winter he was very often ‘frozen off’. His hands were always covered in ‘charks’ which were open cracks & very painful. He used to carry a tablet of Snowfire cream to rub in them. How I loved to hear the clatter of his clogs when he was caning home.

Margaret also recalls that her uncles had once worked down the mine. Her grandmother was once taken down the pit & ‘when she saw the conditions under which they worked, she said no more of her sons would go into the mine, so my father was sent to the mill instead’.

Amongst women workers, the textile industry’s (lamination was complete ­as the pie graphs on page 12 indicate. Of the 1,126 women & girls working outside the home in 1931, no fewer than 794 were textile workers. Of the few working outside the mill, the largest group were garment makers, dressmakers & tailoresses (or office workers). Edith Priestley can remember her days in the Co-op dressmaking department, where she started work in 1918:

I had six shillings a week & there was five apprentices & four of us had the same Christian name. It was very interesting Changing tables every week (skirts, sleeves, coats etc.) but the bit we didn’t like was sweeping up & picking the pins out of the dirt. We used to work until 7 o’clock three nights a week & used to go on to the confectioners for our tea which we enjoyed. I worked there until the dressmaking closed down & two of the ladies started a shop on Chapel Street. I went to work for them & left when I got married.

Long hours & harsh working conditions were a feature of most types of employment available to Queensbury people before the Second World War. Ken­neth Wetherell remembers working as an apprentice painter in 1937:

There was a big snow, all the roads were blocked. The Commercial Inn at Illingworth, Halifax, was being rebuilt. The two apprentices had to walk from Queensbury to Illing­worth with two gallon tins of paint each, down Windy Bank & up the other side through snow drifts. On arriving & putting down the paint the boss said, ‘Are you going to do any work today? Take your coats off & get cracking.’

Work in the painting trade was seasonal & winter unemployment & Short-time working was the rule. Other jobs were more secure & more comfortable, but the strictness & close supervision were virtuality universal. Dorothy Foulds, who worked in the offices of the Co-op, remembers that talking in working hours was forbidden, (although she & her workmates occasionally ‘managed to do things we shouldn’t do – like sneaking into the confectioners & having a vanilla.’) For a few, it was possible to escape the strict discipline of the workplace by becoming self-employed. The work could be just as hard, however as Eric Foulds, at one time a newsagent in ‘Ambler Thorn, recalls:

In the snow in 1947 I walked to Boothtown (in Halifax) two miles away with sledges for the papers, then delivered them. Queensbury was cut off for five days & everything was delivered on a sledge.

Queensbury had been primarily an industrial village for over a century; but

brewing continued within living memory; Stock’s brewery, where Hilda Ward’s grandfather worked as Foreman Maltster, only closed down in the 1930s. And farming remained an important way of life right up to the last war. In 1931 there were 31 farmers in Queensbury Urban District, as well as 7 gardeners, 28 male farm labourers & one woman listed as employed in agriculture. Many more women actually worked on the land, as a ‘farmer’s wife’ was – & is – an occupation in itself. Most of the farms were the old-fashioned ‘mixed’ variety, raising both dairy herds & sheep; but one was devoted primarily to the production of rhubarb. And Emma Wood’s father bred not only pigs & hens, but Yorkshire Terriers & mice as well: Fosters had their own farm too: in 1881, William Foster of Harrowins Hall was listed not only as a manufacturer but also as a ‘Farmer 175 Acres employing 12 Men.’

Edith Miller & Hilda Ward both remember life on Queensbury farms in the 1930s. For Edith, a farmer’s wife:

A typical day began at 5.30am. In the winter the cattle were in the mistal. First job was cleaning it out & washing our hands & the cows’ udders giving the cows their feed & commencing milking. Haytime was hectic, working from dawn to dusk – & beyond if possible.

Hilda also remembers the twice-a-day, everyday milking & the seasonal work, like haymaking with ‘a horse-drawn mowing machine.’ Winter, she explains,

was very hard work. Snow often blocked the roads & the farmer had to dig through the drifts to ensure he could deliver the milk.

But, she adds, ‘for children it was a happy life with plenty of space to play, helping with simple tasks’ &, on Sunday evenings, listening to the farmer play the piano & joining in the songs.

Like the rest of the country, Queensbury was hit by unemployment in the 1930s. But Black Dyke Mill seemed to suffer less than many others, & never closed down. This obviously helped reduce the effects of the Depression on the village. Certain departments went on ‘short time’, but it was perhaps the ancillary workers who bore the brunt. Leonard Woodhead’s father was a joiner at Black Dyke:

I remember him progressing through grades of ‘working three days’, then ‘work a week & laik a week’ then the dreaded ‘laik while you’re sent for’. After that, it was months on the dole. There were occasional jobs available – my father worked for a few weeks in the wool scouring at Isaac Holden’s in Bradford on the night shift.


One group of workers not listed as such in the census is the women who

spent much of their working lives at home, looking after families & raising children. Sore skills acquired here could be used to earn money outside. Molly Barritt’s working life gives a good example of this: almost all her jobs have involved looking after people: as a nursery nurse, a hospital orderly, a nanny, a homehelp, a dinner lady & a caretaker. Molly has helped people all the way through their lives – & beyond, for she once had a job working for an undertaker:

Health care

In the nineteenth century Queensbury suffered from most of the health prob­lems that affected other northern industrial communities. Poor standards of housing & sanitation meant that smallpox, scarlet fever, diptheria, tuber­culosis & cholera were common: half of the total number of deaths were of Children under five, & life expectancy was under thirty years old. Little organised health care was available to ordinary people; & even within. living memory, people often had to treat their awn ailments. Herbal remed­ies, probably remembered from pre-industrial times, were popular, as well as peculiarities such as a sweaty sock round the neck for a sore throat.

By the beginning of this century, local government began to take responsib­ility for health care & things improved. Attempts were made to finance a district nursing system & a permanent professional District Nurse was eventually appointed in 1916. Then, three years later, Queensbury opened its own Child Welfare Clinic – though its accommodation for many years was woefully inadequate: in the late twenties it was even housed in the cricket pavilion.

Despite such rather piecemeal provision, the health care available to work­ing people in Queensbury seems to have been of a reasonable standard for its day, as Alice Bradley recalls:

We had a good health service in Queensbury. The nurse used to visit the school once a week; she was very strict. She would get hold of a chunk of hair, very roughly. Everybody had their babies at hare. The old doctor would stay the whole night if necessary. We had a district nursing association for which we paid 3d a week. The nurses were two sisters, one was the mid­wife, the other the district nurse. The cost of confiners is was 30s.

If Fosters dominated the life of the village then they had at least one major rival: the Queensbury Industrial Society Ltd, popularly known as the ‘Co-op. The Co-op was founded in 1855 and forty years later, had grown so large that its main shop, Central Stores, had to be greatly enlarged. Many Queensbury people will remember its magnificence, now sadly demolished. By its fiftieth anniversary, in 1905, the Co-op had become a major local employer, with a staff of about 75. And it was more than just a shop. With departments selling all kinds of food, clothing & household goods, it was capable of supplying all wants. There were even ‘tea rooms’; & you could take your bread to be “oven’dat the Co-op bakers. Ruby Spencer speaks for many when she says that you could buy more things in Queensbury in the

1930s than you can today’, & lists the Co-op’s departments as ‘grocer, but-Cher, greengrocer, confectionery, clothes, shoes, bedding, furniture & coal.’ Dorothy Foulds remembers ‘divi-day’ at the Co-op as a special event. In the Co-op offices where she worked there was always ‘a frantic rush for the Dividend, then a good spend round the store as they usually ran sales at that time.’

Of course, there were other shops in Queensbury besides the Co-op. James Patchett recalls shopping in the village to have been ‘a very friendly affair’:

You knew all the shopkeepers & if you forgot what you went to the shop for, the shopkeeper knew your order so well that he could almost tell what was wanted by your family.

Emma Smith, who lived up at Mountain, also remembers shopping in Queensbury as a treat, ‘a nice afternoon’s outing.’ As Leonard Woodhead’s maps (above) indicate, the range of shops was very wide. The ones that are remembered with most affection, however, are those which sold goods even the recollect­ion of which is designed to make the mouth water. Joan Harry & Florence Overton recall Katy Green’s currant cakes, & Holloway’s marvellous iced & coconut buns, while Nellie Carroll remembers Jimmy Finney’s pie & pea shop.

Spare time

The Co-op’s activities were not confined just to the actual business of selling goods. Along with the churches & chapels, it was one of the many local organisations through which Queensbury people provided themselves with a varied & very enjoyable social life. Margaret Wetherell remembers the Co-op Gala her childhood

We were picked up in wagons which were decorated, & taken into a field behind the Co-op bakery. There were clowns, acrobats, races, competitions, a bonny baby contest, also a concert party. The best thing was collecting as many free gifts as possible. It was an exhausting day but very exciting for a young person.

Similar events were organised by the chapels after the anneal ‘Whit Walks’. After walking in best clothes & singing outside the houses of the ‘aged & the sick’, Edith Robinson remembers ‘going back to school for a currant bun & a pot of tea.’ After this, she says, ‘we had races in the cricket field. The first prize was 3d, then 2d, then 1ld.dAlice Bradley recalls the Whit Walks a little less fondly, ‘carrying a mug & cane, crippled in new shoes, all for a currant bun.’ Kenneth Wetherell remembers a rather different annual event, Queensbury Fair:

Both fair fields were full & stalls were in Queensbury High Street, on the front of the Old Queen’s Head & across the road in front of the Old King’s Head. All the lights & round­abouts were run by traction engines. There would be half a dozen roundabouts, Flying Chairs & scores of coconut shies, rolling pennies, boxing booths, & the lot nothing above a penny for children. You could get ginger snaps, candy floss, it was a great week for children.

Between these great annual events, Queensbury people amused themselves in a variety of ways. Entertainment for the most had to be either free or inexp­ensive; & leisure time for most adults was largely confined to Sundays by the long working week. Helena Taylor remembers the ‘Pleasant Sunday Evening’ club at which lantern slides were shown, often depicting the evil conse­quences of drink. There was also the Pleasant Monday Evening, the PME, a club for ladies. Emily Dawson is among those who recalls the Queensbury Amateur Operatic & Dramatic Society, just one of the great number of such societies which provided the village with regular plays, light opera & entertainments of the ‘concert party’ type.

Queensbury Co-op Jubilee Walk, 3rd June 1963. James Patchett’s mother, Agnes Briggs, is in the centre of the group, wearing a large V-shaped lace collar.

The sign on the left says ‘Central Stores’ & was one of the Co-op branch stores’ placards carried by children on the walk.

From the 1920s, cinema supplemented, rather thanreplaced live stage perf­ormance as the most popular form of entertainment in the village. Queensbury did not boast its own permanent cinema but rather, as Kenneth Wetherell explains, used various existing buildings:

There were two Picture Houses, the Hall of Freedom & the Vict­oria Hall, which was open Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays, mat­inee Saturday afternoon, admission 1d for children. When the talkies came in, the Victoria Hall installed a talkies machine & not long afterwards the Hall of Freedom closed down. The usher at the Hall of Freedom was a man named Hiram Barrett. When it got too noisy he would switch on the lights & turn them off when all was quiet.

In much of Queensbury’s leisure activities there may have been little to distinguish it from other northern industrial communities. In one area, though, it achieved international fame. The Black Dyke Band established itself as one of the world’ leading brass bands. Most older Queensbury people have vivid memories connected with the band. As Evelyn Smith put it, ‘Anything to do with the Black Dyke Band was sheer excitement’:

The contests were the highlight of the year. Everybody wanted to hear the result. Then Sunday night came & everybody turned out. The street was lined with people, & as the coach arrived in Queens-bury, the cheers & shouts could be heard from a distance. ‘A’hr band had come home wit’ cup’. How proud we felt when we walked on the mill yard an Monday morning & saw the cup up in the board room window.

Beyond our memories

1881 is beyond the memory of even the oldest of us. Nevertheless, there are a number of ways of finding out what life was like in Queensbury then. Some of us can remember stories told by our parents & grandparents; & we also have photographs & written records to help us. One of the most useful of these is the hand-written census, which can still be read in the census enumerator’s own hand. The census is available an microfilm; the part of Queensbury that lay within the Northowram township can be read in Halifax Library, & the part that lay within the Clayton township in the Bradford library, This hand-written census has detailed information about each per­son alive then – for instance, where they were born (see page 2). It also gives people’s ages, & indicates how fewer -older people were alive then. In 1881 there were only a handful of people over 85-years-old, while now in the Queensbury ward there are over a hundred. We put together these statist­ics with our memories of older people earlier this century, & tried to imagine what life was like before the introduction of the small means-tested pensions by Lloyd George for people over 70 in 1908. For instance Ivy Bates imagined what life must have been like for one woman, living with her 76- year-old mother at Scarlet Heights in 1881:

my name is Fanny Taylor. I am a fifty-year-old widow & I make my living going out to people’s houses to wash & clean for them. This way I can earn enough to keep my old mother & myself. My mother’s name is Jane Longbottom & she is 76 & too old to work. My mother is luckier than I will be as I get older, as she has me to look after her. I worry about this at times & I try to save a little each week from my small earnings but it is very hard. I wonder how long I shall be able to work & just what will happen to re if my health fails. I don’t want to go into the workhouse.

The lives of children a hundred years ago could be hard too, for in those days you could be set to work as a half-timer as young as ten. Edith Miller found one such textile worker & tried to imagine what life was like for her:

My name is Ellen. I am 11 years old & I live at Ambler Thorn. I work at John Foster’s worsted mill. I do not like working there & would rather have another kind of work. I should love to sew. But I must make the best of things as they are. There are eight people living in our house & we have only two bedrooms My father works at Jagger’s Quarry. In winter sometimes he is frozen out.



The census is only one of the sources we have used to find out more about Queensbury’s past. Sadly, handwritten census material for after 1881 is not yet available; but we have used the printed census summaries (particularly that of 1931) to obtain statistical information to check & supplement our memories. We have also used old maps – a 25-inch one from 1891 & a 6-inch one from 1932; & also photographs (like the ones in this booklet), printed documents such as street directories, hand-written documents like school log books, & personal papers – like Mabel’s school attendance certificates. Our main resource, though, has been the reminiscences & observations of the people who have spent their lives in the village, & who have helped to make it what it is & what it has been.

LOOKING BACK Alice Bradley

Wen ah goa dahn ahr village street It dunt seem like towld place, It’s like all tother spots we know It has a changing face.

Ther’s a fasten bit cross roads

We upset tab call fear a sup Year can’t get Dun bah

T cup hems been broken up.

Year goad farther up

There’s a cenotaph cheer,

Ter remind us a them at hems goon An as year luck cloister yer’ve see At its mead ova us own local stooan.

In owlden days there wor a chap Ther called im t knocker up E tapped on ‘t winder wi a prop An shahted, ‘time to ger up.’

An sooin ther’d bi a clatter Ov clogs in ivvery street An yerd ear fowk calling aht ‘Alreight lad, see thi ta neet’.

An nah yer’ve read this little book An’t tales es all bin towld Ah think at yer’ll agree Di me  

Memories are precious as gold.

Pioneer Work Publications

Pioneer Work section of Leeds University’s Department of Adult & Continuing Education organises & teaches a wide range of community-based courses in Leeds & Bradford. Many of the groups involved produce work which is of interest & use to the local community. This series provides the opportunity for publishing more widely the original work produced by the adult students involved. The series is published by the Department of Adult & Continuing Education, the University of Leeds:

No 1. Saltaire: our Memories ourHistory (1984)

No 2. Listening and Writing (1984)

No 3. Lazy Tees (Cleveland, 1985)

No 4. Queensbury: our Memories our History (1985)

No 5. An ordinary Lot (1985)

Copies of this booklet can he ordered by post from:

Richard Taylor, Department of Adult & Continuing Education The University, Leeds LS2 9JT. Cheques at postal orders for 60p per copy should be made payable to the University of Leeds.


The ‘Queensbury: our Memories, our History’ course was developed by Dr Steven McGiffen and Jill Liddington. If you would like further information about courses for retired people in the Bradford area, please send a stamped addressed envelope to:

Jill Liddington, Adult Education Centre, 10 Mornington Villas, off Manning ham Lane, Bradford BD8 7HB


The ‘Queensbury our Memories, our History’ course & the booklet & exhibition which sprang from it, have only been possible through the kind co-operation of the people of Queensbury. In particular, we would like to thank:

John Randall, Charles Smith and John Dale of Queensbury Old People’s Welfare Committee

Mr Biggs, Jean Luxford & the other teachers at the Queensbury Upper School

‘Mrs Sykes of Russell Hall School

Reverend J Read & Councillor Mrs Irene Jowett, Anne Hull & Margaret Mason at Adult Education Centre

Carol Greenwood at the Local Studies Unit, Bradford Central Library

David James West Yorkshire Archives, Bradford

Bradford Heritage Recording Unit

& all the many retired Queensbury people who joined the class during 1984-85.


There is a small travelling exhibition witch complements this booklet. If your community group, adult education center or local library would like to display the exhibition, please Contact:

Leonard Woodhead, 29 Fox hill Grove, Queensbury, BD13 2JN (B’fd 880147)

2 thoughts on “Queensbury Our Memories Our History

  1. My great grandfather George Keeton came from Rawmarsh Rotherham in 1906 with his sons to start work at the mill but especially to play with the band The Black Dyke Mills. George Keeton was one of them that went to Canada in 1911 with the Dyke because of his talents with a 2 valved euphonium.His son Ernest Keeton and then his son Derek Keeton all played for the Dyke and so did my mums brother Rennie Keeton…The euphoniun that George played whilst playing for the Dyke was most sort after by the Dyke but im glad it has gone to another member of the Keeton family who can play it.. Thankyou..

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