Childhood Memories

Any Gum, Chum?

By Eric Caddy

During the years right after the end of WW II, things in England were pretty bleak. An Oxo cube was about the closest you could get to a piece of candy. Luckily, we had Latchford Locks and the American supply ships on their way to Manchester. On any given day there could be as many as twenty kids, between eight and twelve years old, lined up on the locks waiting for the ships. Thankfully the American sailors were kind hearted and responded well to the cries of “Throw us some gum, chum”.

I now live in a golf course community in Texas and a couple of years ago, one of my regular playing partners, an old boy of about eighty, was telling a war story. He said that during and after the war he had served in the merchant navy. You could have knocked me down with a feather when he said, “We used to sail from Liverpool up to Manchester on a canal and you should have seen the kids at the locks begging for candy. I always threw them whatever I had”. It was his turn to be amazed when I told him that I was probably one of the kids catching his candy.

Building the Barracks

By Gordon Gandy

I used to walk from my house in St Peter’s Place (St Peter’s Way now) after school to watch the giant crane and the workers building the block of flats at the Peninsula Barracks on O’Leary Street in Orford.

I was no older than 8 years old. Nothing’s changed – I watched Golden Square cranes in action some 35+ years later!

The reason I call it the Barracks is because south of the site is the location of the Peninsula Barracks, former home of the South Lancashire Regiment, which is discussed in Lest We Forget, and pictured below.

Fire! Fire!

By Gordon Gandy

Something on fire always sparks (no pun intended) interest in the community. Boys dream of being a fireman, while the teenage girls just dream about the firemen! Nobody likes to see people injured but we can stand there for hours watching things burn.

The one featured in these two photographs happened on 15 August 2003 off Hawleys Lane near Dallam. I saw the smoke from town centre (seen from Golden Square on the left). The photo (right) is as close as they would let me go. It wasn’t so much the flames, it was what was stored in the canisters in the scrapyard. And it could have gone off at any time so once the content was discovered everybody was moved back.

One policeman said that if I moved back, all the youngsters would follow suit. No chance – I was getting my photos first! The BBC took my video footage but decided not to use it. What surprised me that day was that they didn’t evacuate the nearby Currys and PC World stores on Alban Retail Park just yards from the scene.

Armitage and Rigby Mill Fire at Cockhedge (1872)

This wonderful image was sent to me by a regular reader, Mark, who purchased a framed print of it at auction in 2007. It appeared in the Illustrated London News at the time. The mill was owned by Armitage & Rigby in its final days, having changed hands a few times over its life, and was built by a Mr Green in the early 1831.

The fire depicted here started at around 8pm on the night of Saturday 15 June 1872 in a blaze that could be seen more than 20 miles away. Around 900 people were employed there, mainly women and girls and it caused damage in excess of £50,000 (over £4 million in today’s money).

If you visit Warrington library, you can read a full report in the Warrington Guardian of the day. Ask at the archives desk.

The question posed by reader, Stan, is this: was there really some other stretch of water near the mills, or is the sketch made from second-hand reports by a London-based artist who had only the haziest idea of Warrington topography?

Well, I think I have the answer. On the 1905 Ordnance Survey map of Warrington, it shows a reservoir to the north of the mill. There is an is also an aqueduct close by.

The only natural waterway close by is the River Mersey about half a mile away.

Pierpoint & Bryant Fire (1985)

By Peter Spilsbury

This fire broke out at Pierpoint & Bryant factory in Thelwall Lane, Latchford, at 10.30pm on the evening of 13 May 1985 when the 3-storey building was destroyed.

There were over 100 fire-fighters and 25 appliances in attendance. 3 firemen were injured controlling the blaze. It is said the flames reached 40 feet high. Local people were evacuated. £1m of damage was done and an investigation into its cause was carried out.

A train travelling from Stanlow to Bishopsbrigg on 3 March 1983 with 850 tons of gas oil in 14 tankers were crossing from the Chester line to the W.C.M.L. when 8 tankers derailed and caught fire at Moore. Fortunately there were no casualties.

The fire brigades had difficulty with access to the site and at one stage ran out of foam and had to wait an hour for extra supplies. Trains were diverted via Manchester and Northwich until the site was cleared. The line was closed for a couple of days.

Rail Derailment and Fire near Moore (1983)

By Peter Spilsbury

A train travelling from Stanlow to Bishopsbrigg on 3 March 1983 with 850 tons of gas oil in 14 tankers were crossing from the Chester line to the W.C.M.L. when 8 tankers derailed and caught fire at Moore. Fortunately there were no casualties.

The fire brigades had difficulty with access to the site and at one stage ran out of foam and had to wait an hour for extra supplies. Trains were diverted via Manchester and Northwich until the site was cleared. The line was closed for a couple of days.

Naylor’s Timber Yard Fire (1980s)

By Kathy Barker

Photo © P. Spilsbury

Another massive blaze was at Naylor’s Timber Yard at Lower Walton, in the mid-1980s. I stood with my two youngsters for hours, watching from the Walton side of the Manchester Ship Canal.

I also remember a huge fire in the late 50’s at Howley. Coming out of the Odeon Cinema one late winter’s afternoon, the sky above was very red. Like a Wise Man following the Star, I excitedly hurried along Buttermarket St and Church St keeping my eye on the red glare in the sky.

I found all the streets around Howley Lane sealed off, so from a distance I watched the firemen at the tops of their ladders, silhouetted against the flames. What a spectacular sight. Never did find out what it was that burned down though.

Then there was the Tannery at Orford. That must have been in the early 70’s I think. Wow, that was a fire and a half, and what a view was had from Mum’s house which backed onto the field where the Tannery Rugby Team played (in green/white striped kit).  Shakespeare Grove stands on the site now.

Thames Board Mill Fire (1970s)

By John Williams

In the early 1970s I remember a huge fire at the warehouses of Thames Board Mills. It burnt for days and then smouldered for weeks after – I seem to remember my Dad telling me that it was a fire in the warehouses where they stored scrap paper ready for recycling.

Some months later the cranes moved in and knocked out all the scorched wall/roof panels and replaced them with bright white new ones – this mix of old and new was visible for many many years afterwards.

Laporte Chemical Works Fire (1985)

By John Williams

The second fire I remember was at the Laporte Chemical plant in Walton on 4th June 1985 and caused £5.5m worth of damage at the time (well over £10m in today’s money) and is the tenth most expensive ever industrial fire in the UK!. The fire detection system at Laporte’s had literally only just been installed!

The company of Laporte was based in Luton. In 1948 the name of B. Laporte had been changed to Laporte Chemicals. A new hydrogen peroxide plant was built at Warrington. Information from Grace’s Guide

(G. Gandy)

Greenall’s Distillery Fire (2005)

One anonymous reader said:

I had just left Warrington when the Greenall’s Distillery ‘went up’ in 2005 but heard all about it from an old friend and neighbour.

The newspaper reports at the time said the police believed the fire was started deliberately on 15 October 2005. The two-day fire caused £40 million of damage with approximately £2 million of gin lost.

Dallam Fields Fire (2006)

By Gordon Gandy

The fire, which eye-witnesses say was started by four youths, scorched waste ground off Hawleys Lane, Dallam, between the two churches just after 8.00pm on 25 July 2006. Due to the direction of the wind at the time locals feared the flames would spread to St Anselm’s Church and the nearby bungalows.

Thankfully, the firefighters quickly brought the blaze under control and after an hour the firefighters were damping down.

One local said ‘these youngsters just don’t know the problems they cause with these fires. They soon spread in this dry weather”.

Local children said to me that the fire was caused by two cars exploding. Although there was a burnt out car in the area, it wasn’t the cause of the fire. I suppose it makes a more exciting story for the youngsters!

Fiddler’s Ferry Power Station Fire (2007)

By Gordon Gandy

Fifty firefighters were called to Fiddlers Ferry Power Station just after 10am on Thursday 19 April 2007, when a blaze started in a roof section of the main turbine hall, 150 feet above the ground. It caught fire when bitumen being used for repairs ignited.

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service said the smoke plume was moving up directly and was not affecting nearby properties. Nobody has been injured. 14 fire engines attended the fire which was reported at around 10.20am. Damping down continued until after 4pm.

Fiddlers Ferry power station Opened in 1971, the station had a generating capacity of 1,989 megawatts and took water from the River Mersey. After privatisation in 1990 the station was operated by various companies, and from 2004 by SSE Thermal, a subsidiary of SSE plc. The power station closed on 31 March 2020. Wikipedia

Froghall Lane Sweet Shop

By Tony Hackett

As you go down Froghall Lane toward Whitecross Bridge, you will pass under the railway bridge carrying the line to Warrington Central.

In the gap between the houses and the bridge there used to be a small shop. It could be seen when looking straight down Arthur Street from the Bewsey Road end, and our mums used to take turns in sending me or my friend to run up to the shop to buy a round of ice creams on the way home from school.

That would be around 1964, and the shop was still there up to 1966 when I left to take up the next stage of my education. I don’t know how long the shop lasted after that.

The houses have been replaced by more modern ones, but the gap is still there! Fond memories of the journey home and a shop which we took for granted.

And have you ever wondered how Froghall Lane got its name? It was named after Frog Hall which used to stand on the lane about 200 metres to the east of this location.

The Gullet and other Stories

The photos above, taken on 1 December 2007, show the Gullet in that very spooky, strange, appearance. Nothing seems to have changed down there for years.

The walkway at the western end of Holy Trinity church on Sankey Street.


The wooden bridge and 12 arches at the rear of Thames Board just off Chester Road: this is where the shunting trains could be watched and listened to at close quarters whilst you had a view of the Mersey and the pleasure of walking up some old wooden stairs.

Mersey Smell

For years I used to love the smell of the River Mersey at the weir at Knutsford Road, it was only when I discovered in 1992 that this smell was in fact sewage that I went right off it!

Silver Street School

Silver Street old school was a place renowned for its twins! Many people went to this school. It used to be to the rear of the Red Lion Pub and Irwin’s Tailors, now both demolished. Jaguar House near the Halliwell Jones stadium is there now.

The Gullet

And what about the old tunnel (the Gullet) along the railway path leading from Froghall Lane to Bewsey Road? What an eerie place that was! I remember the stories about the murder down there and the tales of a blood stained handprint! I’m sure that it was put about to keep kids off the railway tracks.

Holy Trinity ‘Tunnel’

And the most famous of all was the narrow passages in town centre. Only one really remains, which is at the side of True Form shoe shop (next to Holy Trinity church) near the old Woolworth’s.

Cock and Trumpet

There was a time that you’d then cross over to go to down another tight alley to the Cock and Trumpet, later the Blackburn Arms. Upstairs it was all gold and silver with mirrors soft cushions and candles and sweet perfume and animal furs. It was almost silent upstairs except for soft music playing. Downstairs was like a cowboy saloon bar. There was also a local darts player in there who would pretend to be rubbish if anyone new walked in. He let them win a few games and would then bet them £10 that he could beat them and he always won. And £10 was a lot of money in those days. The Cock and Trumpet was one hell of a wild place to drink in. That was the Good Old Days, now you have to carry ID and look 21.

Fields by Crosfields

My favourite though is quite unknown to most. You used to be able to walk through Crosfields works along the Mersey embankment all the way up to Chester Road. Just after you got out of the back of Crosfields there was a big farmer’s field and it was always covered in seagulls and crows and lots of old bones. There was always a weird silence here, which was quite a creepy place.

Jock Hay

Does anybody remember the notorious policeman, Jock Hay? And what about the policeman who found a dead horse on a particular street, but as he couldn’t spell that one so he dragged the horse round to Bold Street to write it in his notebook!

Contributor did not wish to be named online.

Jock Hay and Bobby Dooley, Policemen

By Ken Lowe (Jake)

I was at Boteler Grammar School with Jock Hay’s son (also known as Jock) and we were wrestling on the school field (in 1943) and ignored the bell for afternoon school, as we each had the other in a head-lock. The prefects shouted us and came and kicked us up the behind until we released each other. One story about his father was the time someone reported a robbery and Jock, suspecting he knew the culprit, went round to the suspect’s house and “let himself in”, switched the lights off and waited. Imagine the shock the thief had when he arrived home! Pity we don’t allow the police of today to follow those methods.

And the story about the policeman who allegedly found the dead horse: it was said to be a milk horse which dropped dead one Sunday morning on Palmyra Square, found by Bobby Dooley and, because of his inability to spell, dragged it into Bold Street. Unlikely, but you never know!

Read Ken’s memories of the cinema later on. Thanks also to Hugh for the extra notes on the milk horse in Palmyra Square, rather than Winmarleigh Street as originally stated.


A poem by Kathy Barker

I find it quite strange when I try to look back
And remember what happened last week,
I get so confused, get the days all mixed up,
Can’t remember a thing, so I’m stuck.

Yet I sit here, eyes closed and I’m back as a kid,
Seeing clearly the things that I did,
Why is it I wonder, why so crystal clear,
Now I’m into my 63rd year.

The answer is simple, I see it all now,
My childhood, best days of my life,
No worries, no hassles, just days full of fun,
Lots of laughter, good friends and no strife.

Childhood is special, it comes only once
And all too soon it is gone,
But my head is so full of those wonderful days,
So they’ll stay with me now and always.

© Kathy Barker

My First Bike

By Gordon Gandy

The Chopper bike in the photo is part of the collection at The Cycle Museum based at Walton Gardens.

The designer of the Raleigh Chopper bike was Nottingham-born Alan Oakley. He worked for the Raleigh company for 40 years. He drew the design for the Chopper on an envelope as he travelled home from the USA, in 1967, inspired to replicate the design of a motorbike in the film Easy Rider. Alan came up with his drawing as he flew home from the trip, set up for him to “get-to-grips” with youth culture. In the 1980s, production of the Chopper ceased when the rival BMX hit the market, but, due to popular demand, a limited edition Chopper was released in 2004. Link to the Raleigh company website here.

Alan Oakley’s death was announced in the media on Sunday 20 May 2012. He died of cancer, aged 85, on Friday 18 May 2012. A friend and former colleague told The Sun newspaper: “Raleigh was Alan and Alan was Raleigh”. A lasting tribute. Thanks for an iconic bike, Alan. RIP.

I had a Raleigh Chopper bike – I didn’t have to buy it. It was left outside our house and the policeman said if nobody claims it in 28 days, it’s yours. Once dad had checked the brakes, tyres, gears, nuts and bolts, it was ridden on strict instructions that no Tom, Dick or Harry should be given a ‘go’ on it. Glad my name was Gordon!

I used to ride it to my gran and grandad’s in Bewsey and then walk the rest of the way to school. Even though I had my lunch at home (we called it dinner in those days!) they always had a little something for me to eat, a bit of cake or a biscuit.

I seem to remember taking it to school once but the chunky wheels wouldn’t fit in the bike shed holders so I rode it back to gran and grandad’s and left it there till it was time to go home again.

I also remember having to push it home once because I notice a nail in the front tyre when I started to ride it and grandad didn’t have a puncture repair kit to fix it – so dad did it for me when I got home. A massive six-inch nail it was! How I didn’t spot it on the floor I don’t know!

That was in the days when ITN’s Robert Key presented the First Report on ITV in the 1970s. I can just about remember the video sequence of 8 little pictures appearing on the screen in the opening titles. In fact, link to this You Tube video for the very thing!

The bulletin was called News at One when Peter Sissons presented it in 1981. I remember it well – it was in the days when their electronic typewriter worked faster than my laptop does today! No ITV News Channel in those days – mind you, there isn’t now!

On the subject of TV: Blue Peter or Magpie? Blue Peter. Multi-coloured Swap Shop or TISWAS? Swap Shop. The Weakest Link and Golden Balls or the Test Card? The Test Card!

I don’t know what happened to that bike. I think it might have got pinched!

Steam Trains at Winwick

By Kathy Barker

The West Coast Main Line as seen on 16 June 2004. Kathy’s memories would not have included the electric wires, which came into use in 1974.

My most treasured childhood memory though was of the iron bridge at Winwick. My greatest passion was (and still is) trains, especially steam trains.

I was often very happy with just my own company and would spend hours with my little train spotting book (6d) and pencil marking off the numbers and names of the trains.

During the long hot summer holidays (violent electric storms came during the night), I would set off after breakfast with my bottle of water, jam butties and maybe a few plain biscuits and stay on the bridge until dusk.

Mum always knew where she could find me (I never felt afraid in those days of going off alone for hours at a time). By the end of the summer I was as brown as a berry.

I inherited my love of trains from my late Grandad who spent his working life on the railway, then many years later, my eldest son carried on the ‘family tradition’ by becoming a rail enthusiast and working on the railway.

A sad day indeed when diesel and electric locos took over. Where I live now on the 10th floor of a high rise block, there are three railway lines alongside my flat and occasionally steam trains DO still puff along.

The Last Days of Steam

Based on notes by Peter Spilsbury and Kathy Barker

The first two photographs below were taken from the footbridge over the West Coast Mainline at Winwick in 1968. Steam ended on the 13 August 1968 with the famous 15 guinea special from Liverpool. The second image shows a steam train going out of the picture and a class 40 diesel coming in. Electrification of the line began in 1974 and small business units now occupy the area of the sidings on the right.

There was the ‘Black Bridge’ down Mill Lane and past the long wall of Winwick Hospital. As well as ‘train spotting’ on the iron bridge, I used to walk to the Black Bridge, climb the fence and sit on the bank as close to the bridge as I could get. Aw, when those express trains thundered by, what a thrill. Even today the Black Bridge is STILL a very popular place to ‘spot’ from and especially on Sunday mornings. You’ll see dozens of cars parked all along the road over the bridge and most of the ‘spotters’ are men, not kids

45425, above, is seen close to the Black Bridge. Winwick Hospital grounds are behind Mill Lane in the background of this image. Nowadays the hospital is closed.

All three photos
© Peter Spilsbury

Terraced Housing

By Gordon Gandy

This is me and my brother Ste in 1968, aged five and three

I was born in a back-to-back terraced house close to town centre – and mum gave birth to all of four us at home.

Cobbled streets were the norm, outside toilets, no central heating – coal in the bunker, tin bath, concrete back yard and shared bedrooms. I was educated at Hamilton Street School, sadly long gone to make way for the housing estate.

My mum told me that my first day at school resulted in me peeping though the letter box and on opening the door I had said they sent me home from school.

Mum said let’s go back and see what’s happened. It turned out I had walked out of school and they didn’t know I’d gone. They lock you in now!

As kids we used to play on the church wall and when I was about five or six years old I nearly met my maker! I slipped and ended up being hung on a nail by my jumper. It took a girl called Susan Rathbone to run to my house to get my mum to lift me down. You don’t do that twice!

I lived in St Peter’s Place until I was 9, and in those days I used to walk all the way to St Elphin’s Park down the Sixpenny Walk, crossing the road all by myself – and it was always safe.

The Ice Cream Man’s Tricycle

By Gordon Gandy

Albert Hickson took the photo outside George Howard Ltd on Folly Lane, Bewsey in August 1978.

Photo © A. Hickson.

Lewis Bros Ice Cream was founded by the Manfredi family in 1886 and is still a family run business today.

They are based on Lilford Street in Bewsey.

Read more about Lewis Bros here.

There was the ice cream man coming round on a tricycle (below, left) with his ice cream in a large tub on the front, ringing his large hand bell to attract our attention in the 1960s/70s. “Ice, Yip” was his slogan.

The local company Lewis Brothers owned the ice cream tricycle, and are based in Lilford Street off Bewsey Road. I don’t know if they still own the tricycle.

Albert says he remembered the same chap coming around Scott Street (off Battersby Lane) when he was less than 10 years old.

You could get the smallest cornet for 2d in those days, and the raspberry sauce was delicious.

The ice cream man is Ernie Atherton, uncle of Roy Humphreys, who emailed me. Thanks, Roy.

Reader Terry Eyres adds:

He always arrived in King Edward Street at around 2 o’clock every Sunday afternoon and always greeted me with “Alright Kid” as I bought a cornet for my then-three year old son.

Albert adds:

I seem to remember the ice cream man’s call was something like you say. It was something that didn’t mean anything to me.

A bit like the rag and bone men who shouted something like, “Rag-bone!”, but actually most of the consonants weren’t really pronounced, and newspaper sellers used to shout something almost indecipherable. There used to be a rag and bone man’s stable just behind the corner of Scott Street and Chorley Street – does anybody else remember that?

Following on from the newspaper seller’s indecipherable pitch, Morecambe and Wise did a sketch about it. Eric Morecambe was the seller shouting out “Mornin’ Stannit”, and Ernie Wise’s character, dressed in a posh suit and bowler hat, walks over to him and says, “Excuse me, Sir, I think you will find it is pronounced Morning Standard.” Morecambe then shows him the front of the newspaper with the title “Mornin’ Stannit” and carries on with his shout. Great gag, which has been copied by many since.

And here is another of the Lewis Brothers employees, Brian Keenan, who passed away in 1995. His son asked for his name to be added to the photo. The photo was taken on 29 September, 1985. Photo © T. Eyres.

Toys Were Us

By Gordon Gandy

My mum once told me when I was a nipper that I had a favourite toy – a yellow duck on wheels that I pulled EVERYWHERE. Neighbours used to always ask, “Where’s your duck!”

I had Lego, whilst my brother had Stickle Bricks (both still selling well in the shops). The best thing I made was an open back truck. My brother also reminded me of his Christmas gift of Meccano, saying it was the best thing he ever got as a present. He was really creative with it.

I was cowboys, my brother was Indians – plastic models we shot at each other behind the couch while mum and dad watched telly.

Toy cars: used to love them (still do), but they’re all collectors’ models these days! I remember throwing a red double-decker from the doorstep and thought it was lost forever until I found it in the privet hedges years later when doing some gardening.

As for the yellow duck, I have absolutely no recollection of it!

My Verruca and Warrington Infirmary

By Gordon Gandy

I remember being treated at Warrington Infirmary on Kendrick Street for a verruca on my foot. (Warrington’s court buildings occupy the spot now.) I had been treated at Garven Place clinic for about 18 months where they applied some pink cream stuff but it didn’t shift it. So the doctor suggested he take it out at the Infirmary by freezing my foot. I was expecting a bucket of ice – no such luxury! It was an injection in my foot, and then they gouged it out with some tweezers or something. Not very nice but I haven’t had one since!

And my only other dealing with the word verruca was in the name of that horrible character in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Based on Roald Dahl’s novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the film starred Gene Wilder and tells the story of a poor child named Charlie Bucket who, after finding a Golden Ticket in a chocolate bar, visits Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory along with four other children from around the world. One of those children was Verruca Salt, played by the wonderful Julie Dawn Cole.

The Ride of My Life

By Kathy Barker

When I lived in Jockey St. age about 11, there was a fruit and veg merchant who rented the stables behind Mrs Gamble’s shop at No 3. I used to groom his cart horses (ex Co-op milk horses) and ride them bareback down to the field at Winwick when they were turned out each weekend for 2 days rest.

One Sunday morning, riding one of the younger horses, on the way home past the Longford Hotel, it was startled by one of

those huge double-decker Standerwick long distance buses and it took off with me at a gallop down Winwick Road towards town, with sparks coming off its shoes.

Luckily the owner was waiting for us a the top of Jockey St and managed to stop the horse otherwise I think we would have ended up in town centre.

The Rag and Bone Man

By Gordon Gandy

The Bone-Grubber by Richard BeardHenry Mayhew described one bone-grubber he encountered as wearing a “ragged coat … greased over, probably with the fat of the bones he gathered.”

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A rag-and-bone man with his horse and cart on the streets of Streatham, southwest London in 1985. Tony 1212 – Own work

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I remember the rag and bone man coming round on his cart collecting old clothes. For giving him something us kids would be presented with a small toy or a balloon as a reward.

A rag-and-bone man or ragpicker (UK) or ragman, old-clothesman, junkman, or junk dealer (US), also called a bone-grubber, bone-picker, rag-gatherer, bag board, or totter, collects unwanted household items and sells them to merchants.

Traditionally this was a task performed on foot, with the scavenged materials (which included rags, bones and various metals) kept in a small bag slung over the shoulder. Some rag-and-bone men used a cart, sometimes pulled by a horse or pony.

In the 19th century, rag-and-bone men typically lived in extreme poverty, surviving on the proceeds of what they collected each day. Conditions improved following the Second World War, but the trade declined during the latter half of the 20th century.

However, in more recent years, partly as the result of the soaring price of scrap metal, rag-and-bone-style collection continues, particularly in the developing world.

In the UK, 19th-century rag-and-bone men scavenged unwanted rags, bones, metal and other waste from the towns and cities in which they lived. Henry Mayhew‘s 1851 report London Labour and the London Poor estimates that in London, between 800 and 1,000 “bone-grubbers and rag-gatherers” lived in lodging houses, Garrets and “ill-furnished rooms in the lowest neighbourhoods.”

Rag-and-bone man in Paris in 1899 (Photo Eugène Atget)

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The bone-picker and rag-gatherer may be known at once by the greasy bag which he carries on his back. Usually he has a stick in his hand, and this is armed with a spike or hook, for the purpose of more easily turning over the heaps of ashes or dirt that are thrown out of the houses, and discovering whether they contain anything that is saleable at the rag-and-bottle or marine-store shop.— Henry Mayhew.

Information: Wikipedia.

  • The best portrayal on screen about the life of the rag and bone men was in Ray Galton and Alan Simpson’s classic situation comedy Steptoe and Son, played magnificently by Wilfrid Brambell and Harry H. Corbett, which ran for 57 episodes over 8 years with two feature films between 1962 and 1974. Some of the language used in the show would be frowned upon today, but it is still one of my favourite all-time comedy shows.

In my research I learned that bones were collected for sale to glue manufacturers.

Games We Played

By Gordon Gandy

Games we played – hopscotch. Also matchbox rugby. On the pavement we marked out a play area for the pitch. You flicked your matchbox along the floor until you got it over the try line. You then had a chance to convert your try like real rugby. This was done by asking your opponent to make the goalposts with his hands – point your fingers down to the ground with your thumbs touching each other to make the cross bar.

< How we set up the goal posts for Matchbox Rugby. The pitch was marked out with chalk.

You then angled the matchbox on your index finger and ground and flicked it up and over the sticks. You set a time limit for the game – often until your mum called you in for tea!

Dad made us a bagatelle game. It was one of our favourite games.


By Gordon Gandy

Kerby was a great game we played. Two of you stand on opposite sides of the street and take turns to throw the ball across the road, the idea being to hit the edge of the pavement and have the ball come back to you.

One point if it hit and rolled back and two points if you caught it without a bounce. You set the scoring target for the game – say first to 100.

It was more effective on our street because the kerbs were higher making it more suitable – of course you still had to be skilful (or lucky!) to score.

I actually saw a neighbour playing it recently. I haven’t played it myself for years.

Hours of fun – and not a car in sight (or an X-Box 360!)

Kick Can a Lerky and Paper Chase

By Bob Gregory

As a boy of 5 living in Amelia Street in 1950 life was spent making tar balls, playing kick can a lerky, sneaking in the back door of the Queens cinema, playing paper chase down Orford Lane and spending half my childhood on Orford Park.

The two ponds in the park: one large used for fishing and the small one used for paddling. Many happy days were also spent on the swings. The swing with the plank type seats was called the Banana Boat in answer to the reader who had forgotten its name. When fishing in the pond, the tackle was a stick with a piece of black cotton as the line, a matchstick as a float and a button as a weight with bloodworms tied on as bait, catching mainly sticklebacks and red cocks.

Kick can a lerky was a game played mainly in the backs of houses where a can is placed on the ground, one person guards the can but tries to find the other kids before they have a chance to kick it first – top game.

Collecting tar on a hot day from between the cobbles making balls was not was not my mothers favourite game when having to wash my clothes covered in tar.

Paper chase was played between two teams. One team set off 15 minutes before the other sticking a small piece of paper in any little hole in the shop front giving the name of the next shop, trying to keep ahead of the following team. Greggo.

Our First Kite

By Gordon Gandy

On holiday at the Cliffe Hotel Caravan Park at Trearddur Bay, Anglesey, Dad made us the best kite ever out of brown paper. It flew sky high. We only lost it when the wind changed direction and it got tangled up in the trees in fields hundreds of yards away and we couldn’t rescue it.

Somebody got a high-flier for free! In those days we had a Vauxhall Viva and on the way to Wales from Warrington we all used to sing along to the radio or tape (“Country Roads” was one we sang on the Welsh country roads).

One of the funniest things to happen to me, although not too funny for me at the time, was when I got chased around the caravan park by a pig! It had escaped from the local farm and as it approached me I dove into the caravan without touching a single step.

All that was in the days when the North Wales coastal road was a slow single carriageway where you were guaranteed to get delayed! 

The photo shows me at five years old on Trearddur Bay beach on Anglesey, Wales.

Shilling for the Meter

By Kathy Barker

The Orford bus used to terminate right outside our house in Fisher Avenue.

I would be waiting to jump on and ask the conductor if he had a shilling (5p) for the meter. While he rummaged in his bag to find one, I would happily swing around the pole.

School Days

By Kathy Barker

The old school building as it looked in November 2006.

Readers might remember how the railway line ran alongside Bewsey School. Well for 3 of my 4 years there, I was in one of the pre-fabricated classrooms and each year my report stated, “This pupil could do much better if she concentrated more on her lessons and less on watching trains all day long”.

When Long Lane Junior School (Orford) opened in 1953 I was 10, so spent just one year there before moving up to the Secondary School (it was just around the corner from home).

What I remember about that year was the ‘film shows’ that were put on once a month (I think). School would open in the evening and we would pay 6d, sit crossed legged in the hall and watch CHARLIE CHAPLIN and MOTHER REILLY. It kept us off the streets on dark winter evenings.

Punch and Judy

By Gordon Gandy

The story above reminded me of a similar story – I watched a Punch and Judy show in the school hall for sixpence in Hamilton Street school. And I was asked by one of the other pupils if I would sell him my place. No chance. I saw the show – he didn’t! And the killjoys don’t want the kids watching stuff like that now. It’s not Punch and Judy they need to worry about – it’s the 18 certificate violence games that they play with daddy…

< A traditional Punch and Judy booth at Swanage, Dorset, England.

Punch and Judy image by ALoan at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.

The Punch and Judy show has roots in the 16th-century Italian commedia dell’arte. The figure of Punch is derived from the Neapolitan stock character of Pulcinella, which was anglicized to Punchinello

He is a variation on the same themes as the Lord of Misrule and the many Trickster figures found in mythologies across the world. Punch’s wife was originally called “Joan.” Read more in Wikipedia.

This [image] file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.