Nostalgia with Margaret Watson: Looking back at Eastborough in Dewsbury

There are some people whose help in producing this column week after week for many years has been invaluable.

By Jane Chippindale
Sunday, 19th December 2021, 6:30 pm

Margaret Watson writes: Top of the list for thanks are postcard collector Christine Leveridge and local historian Stuart Hartley, who are always there to give me a helping hand.

Their fascinating old photographs and vast historical knowledge are always available to me and it is this kind of support which has kept me going.

Both are Dewsbury born and their passion for the town’s history has led them to write books and booklets about various aspects of it.

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Chequered history: This postcard from Christine Leveridge’s collection shows Leeds Road in Eastborough, Dewsbury

Looking through them always gives me food for thought and gets my grey cells going, which is all I need to start writing.

Especially if I find pictures of old Dewsbury I’ve never seen before, like the one above of Leeds Road, a part of Dewsbury seldom photographed.

If Christine hadn’t put this picture in her brilliant little book entitled ‘Dewsbury and District Old picture postcards’ some years ago I’d never have known about it.

Not surprisingly, her book sold out very quickly because it included in it so many other equally fascinating photographs of Dewsbury.

This photograph has given me the opportunity to write about a part of Eastborough which has changed beyond recognition.

Once, however, it was a thriving little area with hundreds of families living in close proximity to each other with three churches to serve them.

Sadly, the church pictured at the top of the picture, St Philip’s, was demolished in the 196os, but Eastborough School, which is not in the picture, is still with us.

We cannot deny that Dewsbury is changing by the day and that we have lost a great deal of our history which makes photographs like these all the more special.

Without dedicated postcard collectors like Christine, I fear a great deal more of our local history would be lost.

Christine, a member of Dewsbury History Group, is passionate about Dewsbury and its history.

She will go to great lengths in her search for local postcards.

Christine goes all over the country in search of postcards but she is never satisfied and just keeps on searching for more.

She was brought up in Scout Hill and went to Boothroyd Lane School, and later Dewsbury Technical School.

She recalls walking through Dewsbury Cemetery and Crow Nest Park on her way to school and always felt how beautiful it all was.

Being a collector of postcards for 45 years, Christine decided some years ago to write her book so she could share her interest with others. Included in it were a considerable number of previously unpublished images which provided a fascinating insight into Dewsbury’s past.

Looking at old pictures like the one above always prompts me to look into the history surrounding them.

I look at the houses, nearly all built back-to-back, and marvel at how many people lived in such tiny dwellings before slum clearance and road widening schemes.

Most of the houses were back-to-back.

But in 1938 these dwellings were condemned as being unfit for human habitation, and the old Dewsbury Borough Council were ordered to pull them down.

Their slum clearance programme, however, was halted before it began due to the outbreak of the Second World War, and wasn’t resumed until the 1950s.

Eastborough has a chequered history, and in the 1880s was described by a clergyman as a place where the town’s most objectionable inhabitants gravitated.

There were brothels in the area and it was regarded by many as one of the worst areas in Dewsbury.

This was most unfair to the many respectable and good living people who were living in Eastborough at the time.

Church-going people in particular were very concerned about the state of affairs in Eastborough and tried to do something about it.

Many churches were built there, including three within a few hundred yards of each other, not to mention a fourth - Leeds Road Baptist Church just across the road, which is still with us.

In Eastborough, there were four places of worship: St Philip’s, Eastborough Methodists, the Out and Out Mission and the Salvation Army.

In 1884, Mark Pickersgill, then Town Missioner, brought together a number of people concerned about what was happening in Eastborough.

Several of these came from Centenary Methodist Church in Daisy Hill and they started holding cottage services in Ridgeway Street.

In April 1884, a decision was taken to build a new mission church in Eastborough at a cost of one thousand pounds.

Land at the corner of Pepperoyd Street and Battye Street was bought at a cost of five shillings a yard.

The new church was opened the following year, but sadly Mr Pickersgill, who had worked so hard to see the church built, died a few weeks before it was opened.

But this little chapel was to close in the 1960s during slum clearance of the area, and St Philip’s nearby was also to close some years later due to road widening.

The Salvation Army premises had closed earlier, having merged with the Batley Salvation Army Corps.

The last surviving church in Eastborough was the Out and Out Mission which managed to keep going long after the rest, but sadly this too has now closed down.

Although the book which Christine Leveridge wrote, in which the picture above appeared, is no longer available, she did later co-write another book about coal mining.

It is called “The Yorkshire Coalfield”- and is still available at the National Coal Mining Museum, priced £12.50. Also, available on eBay or at http://www.fedjbooks.co.uk.