When villagers made the most of the summer sun

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IT is at this time of year when we remember the days when people used to come together in great numbers to organise all sorts of outdoor events.

There were galas and carnivals, processions and parades, ox roasts and village feasts and once, in Batley Carr, they even made a Monster Pudding.

Most villages had their own feast or carnival usually on a piece of waste ground or a field they had borrowed from a local farmer for the day.

Ravensthorpe had its own feast for many years on a piece of land in North Road where the infant school now stands.

One elderly resident once described how excited the children used to be watching the feast being set up.

“We watched the giant steam engines arrive, towing the many large wagons containing the roundabouts,” he recalled.

“Four or five of these monsters would generate electricity for lighting and provide the power to drive the roundabouts and operate the steam engines.”

Thornhill Lees also had its own feast, again one of the highlights of village life in those days.

It was held on a piece of land between Chestnut Terrace and Shaw’s fish shop, later known as Connolly’s, where St Anne’s Housing complex is now situated.

Memories of Thornhill Lees Feast are recalled this week by Bill Beattie, who was born in the village and still lives there.

He recalls how for 51 weeks of the year this piece of land, known by the locals as the ‘piece’, was a cricket pitch and football field for the local children.

Mr Beattie said: “Numerous battles took place here between England and Australia and England and Hungary, but for one week only, the feast took precedence.

“The local farmer, Mr Lindley, used to take down the fence between his paddock and the ‘piece’ which allowed the feast to extend right up to the cattle mistal.

“For us kids and also a lot of adults the feast was fantastic, and when the trucks arrived the whole area became a hive of activity.

“The multi-coloured caravans would be located at the top of the paddock and the ‘feasties’ would begin assembling the stalls and the amusement rides.

“We would stand in awe watching these people literally throwing them together. There were no cranes. Everything was done by sheer hard physical labour and within a few hours the feast would be assembled.

“At the bottom, alongside the pavement, were the various stalls like the penny slot machines.

“With the flick of your finger, that little ball bearing would whiz around and you hoped it would drop in the right hole, so the pennies would come cascading down the chute.

“Roll-a-penny was so simple and yet so exciting as you placed the ramp in the direction where the best prizes were and then you would carefully let your penny roll down.

“Then you could ‘fish-a-duck’ out of the water and hope the number underneath would show you’d won a prize.

“There were also stalls selling toffee apples and candy-floss, and alongside the wall separating Chestnut Terrace, there would be the wooden swings.

“Two of us would sit inside and pull the ropes, trying to make it go vertical. Then we would climb to the top of the helter skelter carrying our mats with us.

“These we would place on the slide and then sit on them and push off, rushing down the slide and falling face down on to the grass at the bottom.

“Fortunately health and safety rules had not yet appeared so everyone could have some excitement and fun.

“The waltzer to us youngsters always seemed to go around at a terrifically fast pace, and if there were any young girls inside the cars, the ‘feasties’ would make it spin faster, with the girls inside laughing and screaming.

“There was also the carousel with the horses going up and down and we used to imagine we were Roy Rogers, Gene Autry or Hopalong Cassidy.

“And whilst enjoying yourself on the amusements you were always aware of the music blaring away, and above the noise was the incessant throb of the diesel generators supplying power to the feast.

“Soon it was time to go home to bed, but if you were lucky and still had tuppence left, you could call in at Shaw’s and get a bag of chips with bits on smothered in salt and vinegar.

“Within a few days it would all be over for another year, the amusements dismantled and loaded back onto the lorries.

“Our ‘piece’ would be returned to us to play on, and the paddock for the cattle to graze upon once again – but not before we had checked every square yard of ground for any lost coins!”

Villages like Batley Carr and Westtown also had their own feasts, but in Earlsheaton they had an annual carnival which was a magnificent affair.

In 1904 the carnival was held in aid of the ‘deserving aged and poor’ and the whole village turned out to support it.

Flags and banners were displayed from almost every house, while along the route of the procession streamers of bright hues spanned the road.

The carnival procession was headed by Matthew Belk on horseback in the character of an army officer.

The various trade exhibits formed up at Laithe Croft, which had been loaned for the occasion by the Earlsheaton District Council

Following were two pony phaetons in which were seated the King (Ashley Taylor), the Queen (Alice Rigg), and the maids of honour (Doris May Scott, Gertrude Swithenbank, Mary Wilson and Ethel Buckley).

They all looked pretty in their dainty dresses and were much admired by the large number of people who lined the route.

Comical characters, cyclists in costume and schoolchildren in carts followed.

The route taken was via Town Street, Cross Street, Ossett Lane, Chickenley Lane, Wakefield Road, Hill End, Low Side and Headland Road, back to Laithe Croft, where the judging took place.

The Dewsbury Temperance Band, which had headed the procession, played selections for dancing, and the Dewsbury Volunteer Gymnasium Club gave an attractive performance.

l If you have memories or photographs of your childhood street parties or processions, please ring 01924 468282 or e-mail tresham3@gmail.com.