Nostalgia with Margaret Watson: A look back at Dewsbury in the year 1958

A new year is upon us and I hope it is better than last year’s which affected every one of us (and still is) due to the terrible coronavirus.

Thursday, 30th December 2021, 9:21 am
Updated Thursday, 30th December 2021, 9:24 am

Margaret Watson writes: So let us look back to happier times and pray that the year 2022 will bring good fortune – and health – to us all.

If I want to cheer myself at this time, I think back to happier years, like the year 1958 when I joined the Reporter, aged 17.

Great changes were about to take place in Dewsbury and it was part of my job to report on them.

Sign up to our daily Dewsbury Reporter Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Dewsbury during the 1950s when people had time to sit and watch the world go by. Not one of the shops pictured on Market Place are with us today.

We had five cinemas in the town centre at that time – the Playhouse, Essoldo, Tudor, Pioneers and Rex – and I reported on all five closing down.

The Empire theatre and Caddy’s ice cream parlour also closed down and both buildings demolished within a few years of each other.

Still, most of my generation will never forget those halcyon days when everything we needed was right there on our doorstep.

Below is a short review of the news I was reporting on during my first year at the Reporter:

JANUARY – On New Year’s Day, Dewsbury residents were surprised to see snow – in some cases several inches deep.

Two men had a narrow escape when a crane toppled over on to a barge near Ravensthorpe’s huge cooling towers.

FEBRUARY - Mr J Marcus Fox was adopted as prospective Conservative candidate for Dewsbury division.

The River Calder overflowed its banks, and Mr James Jackson had a narrow escape from drowning when his car skidded and crashed at Shepley Bridge, Ravensthorpe.

MARCH - Tenants of pre-fabs were told they would be re-housed, and one of the oldest farms in the district, Thornhill Hall Farm, changed hands and the stock was put up for auction.

New regulations concerning dogs having to be kept on leads in the town centre and on main roads were brought into effect.

APRIL - Employees of Thornhill Coke Works were told the coking plant would close down, and during the Easter holidays, a number of local youths were hurt in a fall on Ben Nevis.

A lorry crashed into a tobacconist shop window on Corporation Street, and that week Jas Smith’s dry cleaners celebrated their centenary.

MAY - The Dewsbury firm of Messrs Austins and Sons, Thornhill Lees, supplied the steel work for the new control tower of Gatwick Airport.

St Paulinus May procession, which was 1,000 strong, slowed traffic in Dewsbury. It took two hours for them to walk through the town centre and back to Westtown.

JUNE - An increase in council house rents was announced, and members of Thornhill Lees Church celebrated the church’s centenary with a special party.

Dewsbury Rugby League Club announced it had cleared its debt of £5,000.

JULY - The town celebrated the start of its annual holiday and despite poor weather, over half the population left the town in search of the sun.

For those who stayed at home, amusements included a regatta by the local sea cadets at Boat Sams where a large crowd gathered to watch the sports.

AUGUST - It was a case of rain, rain and more rain throughout the month of August when it was reported there had only been one fine day throughout the whole month.

A local link with the atomic submarine Nautilus, which crossed the Polar ice-cap while submerged, was established with the news that the father of the engineer officer, Paul J Early, was born on Parker Road, Thornhill Lees.

During the month of August, the Reporter celebrated 100 years of publication with a centenary edition.

SEPTEMBER - Bickers led the field in Dewsbury with the national move to increase buying goods with the new credit plan.

A timely discovery prevented sabotage by arson at the new St John Fisher School. There was also a hint that Dewsbury Corporation might buy the Empire.

There was short time in local mills which caused concern among the trade unions, but it was a relief to know meat prices in Dewsbury would not be increased as a result of the meat crisis in London.

Varying rumours were circulating concerning the closure of Messrs Mark Oldroyd’s mill.

OCTOBER - A report stating Dewsbury Baths were crumbling was revealed and the council wondered if new baths was an alternative to costly repairs.

A serious blow came to Dewsbury when it was announced Messrs Mark Oldroyd Ltd was to close because of substantial losses and no new orders.

News of the death of His Holiness Pope Pius XII was received with deep regret not only by Catholics but by people of many different denominations locally.

Work commenced on Dewsbury Moor crematorium in the old borough park adjoining Crow Nest Park at a cost of £73,000.

A lorry driver had a lucky escape when his vehicle crashed into the town hall after failing to take the corner of Rishworth Street from Wakefield Road.

NOVEMBER - Some employees of Messrs Wormald and Walker Ltd were placed on short time. Residents of the new Valley Road Estate complained of increased costs, including bus fares and smokeless fuel.

A daring raid took place on the shop of Messrs Frank Cooke Ltd when several pounds worth of goods were taken.

DECEMBER - The Vicar of Earlsheaton, the Rev J L Tompkins, died suddenly aged 45.

A petition to alter the name of Reservoir Street to Cambridge Road was turned down by the council.

The Christmas lights costing £350 were switched on, and the pantomime Dick Whittington opened on Boxing Day at the Pioneer Cinema.

What a year!