Nostalgia with Margaret Watson: Remembering Rock House

Recent articles about the vanishing streets of Dewsbury seem to have sparked the imaginations of local people more than any other, especially those who lived in the areas mentioned – Crackenedge, Eightlands and Batley Carr.

Tuesday, 24th June 2014, 2:35 pm
COMMUNITY CELEBRATION This picture of a street party to celebrate the Queens Coronation in 1953 was taken in Hartley Grove at the top entrance to Batley Carr Park. The children lived in Hartley Street and Tolson Street. Among the adults are Harry V Smith, far left, his wife, Ethel, Harold Purdy, local shopkeeper Mary Haigh, and Gladys Swithenbank.

Last week I published an old photograph showing the bottom end of Batley Carr Park shortly after it had been built in the grounds of a large house known as Rock House.

In the background of the picture were a number of houses and I wondered if one of them could have been Rock House.

I did receive a call saying one could have been ‘Carr House’, but I haven’t yet received any information regarding Rock House.

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What I do know is that many of the older generation who used to live in that area continued to call the new park Rock House Gardens for many years afterwards, so such a house must have existed.

The picture above, showing a street party to celebrate the Queen’s coronation in 1953, was taken in Hartley Grove at the top entrance to the park, and a note on the photograph says it was taken at the entrance to “Rock House Park”. More information confirming there was such a house.

Looking back I realise there were many streets situated on the fringes off Batley Carr Park which escaped demolition when the old Dewsbury council embarked on its house-building programme in the 1950s and 60s.

Among these were Hartley Street, Hope Street, Tolson Street and Pyrah Street, all of which remained virtually untouched, unlike nearby Springfield, the village where I grew up, which was almost razed to the ground.

Perhaps these houses were reprieved because they were good, solid stone houses, many of them in terraces, and they were through houses, unlike many in Batley Carr which were back-to-back.

Also saved from demolition was The Woodman public house at the bottom of Hartley Street, which thankfully is still going strong and remains the last surviving pub in Batley Carr.

Few old photographs exist of people who lived in this part of Dewsbury, so I was delighted when I was loaned these by David Smith, son of the late Harry V Smith, a well-known former wrestler, Dewsbury sporting legend, and, as many of my generation will remember him, good old school bobby.

Many people have contacted me recently regarding their memories of Batley Carr, including Ian Sewell, who was very familiar with Mill Road when he was growing up in the village.

He remembers the park and a street off Mill Road which led to where his great aunt lived, and also the upright police box which stood at the bottom of the park.

He writes:

“My great aunt’s name was Emily Blackburn (née Charlesworth) and she lived there with her husband Charlie and son James.

“I was born and bred in Batley Carr – the Irish Fold and then Town Street from 1954 until 1964.

“My maternal grandparents lived in King Street. I am researching my ancestry so anything nostalgic is of interest to me.”

Ian also remembers the Saw Inn, where his great uncle Horace Gardner was a regular visitor, and the shop nearby which made their own pineapple ice lollies.

And, on the opposite side of Mill Road was a block of four terrace houses, and in the bottom house lived the Ellis family.

“Janet Ellis, their daughter, went to Warwick Road School at the same time as me – 1959-64,” Ian recalls, “and above them was a cobbler’s and a barber’s shop, and perhaps a grocers.

“Between the cobblers and the barbers was the pathway which led to Batley Carr Working Men’s Club where my father and maternal grandfather used to go on a Sunday lunchtime.

“I lived on Milton Street in 1954, before moving to 100 Town Street, Batley Carr. It was adjoined to Walter Greenwood’s butchers.

“It stood across from King Street and Jubbs general store. My mum worked there for a time. Mr Gledhill was the store manager.

“Batley Carr was my life from my birth in 1954 to our moving up to Staincliffe in 1964, due to the demolition of Batley Carr.”

Another former resident of Batley Carr, Kathleen Kavanagh (née Siddall), has also contacted me with memories of Batley Carr.

She writes:

“I’m from Mill Road, Batley Carr, and often played in Speights yard with my pal who lived in the yard. We played on waste wooden kind of bunkers at the front of the building.

“They were full of bits of parchment and had a distinctive smell. I live in Dublin now but I am enjoying seeing all these old pictures of Dewsbury.

“My friend’s family, the Richardsons owned the Saw pub and the joiners and undertakers up Lidgate Lane. We are still good friends after all these years.”

Val White previously sent me some details about her early working life and I’m keen to speak to her about her experiences.

I would be most grateful if she could email me at [email protected] or leave her contact details with the news team on 01924 468282.

If you have memories of the street where you lived or any photographs, please let me know.