Nostalgia column with Margaret Watson

Margaret Watson.
Margaret Watson.

THERE is something about this week’s picture of Market Place which makes me smile because it shows just how easy it used to be for motorists to park their cars.

They could park their cars virtually anywhere in the town centre because there were no parking restrictions, no yellow lines and no parking wardens.

GREAT MEMORIES: Dewsbury Market Place with Essoldo Cinema in the background.

GREAT MEMORIES: Dewsbury Market Place with Essoldo Cinema in the background.

Just look at the car parked in front of the Yorkshire Bank. Can you imagine that happening today?

Take a long look at the lovely shops which once flourished in Dewsbury, the very same shops we visited as children every Saturday morning with our mothers.

Looking back I cannot remember dads ever taking us shopping. I might be wrong, but to my mind dads didn’t shop in those days.

The main reason I decided to use this picture was in response to all the emails I’ve received recently about old Dewsbury.

Most of them mention how they used to go shopping with their mothers on Saturday mornings, and this picture shows some of the shops they mentioned.

It also shows in the background the Essoldo Cinema which many readers have asked me to mention. Even though it closed down many years ago, they still remember it.

Now, all that is left of it is the front facade because it is in a conservation area, but the inside has been pulled down.

It was the same with the old Central Railway Station. When that was closed down, courtesy of Dr Beeching, much of its facade was left.

This means that we can still look at them and remember happier times when we were young and Dewsbury was one of the finest shopping centres in the country.

Many readers have written to me recalling the names they remember, such as Redmans grocers, Broughs, Hagenbachs, Wigfalls, J&Bs and the fish snack bar to name but a few. It might be years since these shops and cafes closed down but we still remember them.

Nearly all my emails have been from men – three of them named John – which shows what a popular name this was in the 1950s and 1960s.

The following is the email I received from one of the Johns mentioned – John S Aspinall, who takes us down memory lane to recapture a Dewsbury of long ago.

Here is what he has to say:

“In the mid 1950s and early 1960s I would go nearly every Saturday morning to the ABC Minors in Dewsbury, where we’d put on our 3D glasses and watch Zorro, The Lone Ranger and Tonto etc.

“Sometimes, if we were lucky, we’d have a visit from the Brooke Bond Chimps in the cinema foyer. We would hold their hands and pat them on the head. Great times.

“At noon my mum would meet me outside the cinema and we’d walk the short distance to the Snack Bar fish and chip restaurant where my gran worked as a waitress.

“She always looked very smart in her black dress with a white apron and a small white headband.

“Sometimes we’d stop there and have fish and chips.

“I was proud of my Gran because to me as a small boy she seemed to be one of the few people in the town who had a smart clean job. Everyone else seemed to work in textile mills, engineering or down the coal mines.

“One of the best places in town for children to visit was the toy department in J&Bs. They had a fantastic electric train set lay-out, along with many more toys.

“In late November early December, Santa would arrive at J&Bs and climb the town’s fire brigade ladder to enter through one of the first floor windows into the toy department.

This was our Mr Magorium’s Emporium.

“Sometimes on our way home we would call at Caddy’s Ice cream parlour which served the best tasting ice cream in the world.

“We always seemed to be served by the same man – a roly poly chap with red cheeks dressed in a white coat.

“When I was about 11 or 12 years old my father started a Saturday job on Dewsbury Market working for a Blackpool-based family business called Burt Wilson’s Hams. They had two stalls and sold roast hams, roast pork and pork pies.

“They also had a stall selling biscuits. One of the ham stalls was diagonally opposite the tripe stall at the end of the covered market.

“The other ham and biscuit stalls were opposite each other, more or less straight down into the market from the ‘A’ bus stand across the road from The Arcade where Wigfalls electrical store and Hudson’s furniture shop stood.

“I would help my dad sometimes on the biscuit stall but I could never help on the ham stall due to hygiene and safety reasons.

“One of my jobs on Saturday morning was to go round the stall holders and ask what kind of sandwich they’d like me to bring back from the Cafe Snack Bar next to Stringer’s Book Stall where I got my Commando books.

“That cafe made the best spam sandwiches you will ever taste. I’m 67 now and I’ve tried over the years to replicate the taste but never achieved it.

“In the afternoon my job was to weigh out broken biscuits into 1lb bags, usually plain ones like Sports, Custard Creams,Morning Coffee etc.

“I always remember at about 4pm the people who seemed well-to-do bought the broken biscuits, but it was the ordinary people who bought the expensive ones like Chocolate Viennas and Spotlight’s – maybe it was their weekly treat.

“I will always remember it as one of the best times of my life. Nobody seemed to have a lot of money but they had a lot of time for each other.

“Now we all seem to be reaching out for the end of the rainbow.”

If you have any memories of old Dewsbury to share, please contact me at