Memories of Life Living at 22 Broomspring Lane

Donated by Susan Barr

Broomspring Lane, court 8 map from 1889
Photo: SALS 294.7.24

Susan Mary Barr (Nee South) was born on 4th November 1949. She lived with her sister Sandra Ann Wilson (nee South b 16th August 1952) and parents Colin South (b 21st December 1926) and Olga Mary South (Nee Butler b 17th May 1927).

Susan sent us her memories of growing up in Broomhall:

We lived at Broomspring Lane until 1962 when we all moved to Grimsby as my father gained a promotion. He had been apprenticed as an electrician but this was interrupted by his National Service. He had just married (aged 20 years old). They did not live there from being married but first had some time living with my maternal grandparents and both my sister and I were infants when we moved to Broomspring Lane.

Broomspring Lane was the first home that my parents lived in on their own. My paternal grandparents found the house for them. I have the impression that it was rented out by the same landlord that they had.

My grandparents had lived at 8/4 Broomspring Lane all their married life. Grandma was Elizabeth South and Grandad Ernest South. Grandad was a lot older than my grandmother and I don’t remember much about him except that he smoked a pipe, wore glasses and had a “crippled” leg. Apparently he was a batman during the First World War and somehow sustained a leg injury, was invalided out of the army with no pension. He was always deferential to people in authority and my dad used to get really cross about this as he said granddad was swindled out of a pension by the authorities. I think he used to make bone umbrella handles (?) but was unable to work because of his disability. He had a very bad limp. Dad had an older brother Ernest who died this year.

My father and his brother both attended Springfield School. I remember my father was always studying for some qualifications as long as we lived in Sheffied (and later in Grimsby as well). He said that the teachers had no expectations of him and once they had taught him what they had to he was left to his own devices.. playing noughts and crosses mainly… I was told the story by grandma that he passed an exam to go to a grammar school but they couldn’t afford to buy the uniform to send him. (i think this isn’t quite right .. wasn’t the tripartite system and Grammar schools introduced in 1945..the dates don’t add up?). He did succeed in having a good career and worked as a professionally qualified Electrical Engineer (not electrician!) until he retired from the YEB when he was 65. It took him a long time to get over his shaky early education. This was helped initially by his studying for army exams in the Royal Engineers and through the support and encouragement of people he met though his life. In particular from a friend Norman Barnes (who I was led to believe worked on the construction/design of the Thames Barrier and was also was a lay Methodist preacher living in Surrey) and Ernest Donaldson who also worked as an Electrical engineer for the YEB but was a bit of an explorer. (I was told that he made the Finish history books as having crossed a snow desert and having lived with the Laplanders for a while?) Both of these people had very different backgrounds to my father. Both were middle class and were educated people. Norman he met through the army and Ernest through work.

My father’s family were poor and he recalled coming home to boiled potatoes and onions for dinner as that was all my granddad had on the allotment at the time. Grandma never worked once she had married. Her house was “old fashioned” compared to ours. She had an old black leaded coal range. She would stoke up the fire and pile up the coals against the oven which was on the right hand side of the range. She was a good cook and made “balm cakes (which were like bread buns) and cook all sorts of strange looking offal from the tripe shop. My granddad Butler occasionally sent a racing pigeon, which hadn’t performed as expected, to her. He would wring their necks and she would cook and eat them. She used to eat brown unsliced bread which she would butter first and then cut in thin slices. Her house always smelled of Imperial leather soap and persil which she used to store on the steps leading up to the bedroom and attic.  Like us she had a cellar head where she stored things which needed to be kept cool and a tiny kitchen where she would have a strip wash daily. Like us she only had an outside toilet. Unlike us she didn’t have to share hers with another family. Toilet paper was cut up squares of newspaper.

Grandma South lived “up the yard” whilst we lived next door to the school.. the house on the corner of Broomspring Lane and Petre Lane (we all pronounced it Peter Lane). I remember grandma South’s house initially having gas lighting but we always had electricity as far as I remember. We also had a “modern” tiled fireplace and a gas cooker and Hotpoint (Empress?) washer (this was before the twin tub was introduced). Mum had to tong washing into the sink to rinse it by hand after it was washed by the machine. Grandma South still used a dolly tub and posher to wash her clothes. She had some kind of boiler to heat water..This wasn’t the one which was part of the range. She used to store wood kindling in that. 

Neither we nor Grandma had hot piped water. Only one cold water tap was in each house. We used to have to boil all the water we needed. I remember having a bath by the fire in a tin bath but as I was older I would go to the slipper baths for a bath (there is a Spa now where the slipper and swimming baths were). We used to clean the bath before and after use using a cloth and some carbolic red paste which was provided in large tubs. I think we took our own soap and towel.  There were separate private cubicles.. not the communal ones I have seen reproduced in a recent TV programme. Everyone was very “proper” and I can’t imagine anyone we knew sharing bathing space!

Grandma South had been in service before she was married and we would talk for hours about her young days. She would knit us cardigans and crochet squares from scraps of wool. The squares she made into blankets. Me, my mother, sister and my daughter still use these blankets. We call them “poorly blankets” and will wrap them round us when any of us aren’t well and need to lay down and be warm. She would sit by the fire on a straight backed wooden rocking chair rocking and knitting. She would get the wool by unravelling old woollies. She also made her own peg rugs. She would go to jumble sales and buy old coats and cut them up for rags. They were very substantial rugs not like the ones you can get in kit form now which seem to be mainly polyester fabric. Of course Grandma’s couldn’t be washed so she had to keep replacing them from time to time. I would also sit with her in the evenings listening to the Home service or the Third? Service on the radio. She’d always have nice things in the house like lemon puff biscuits and Tizer. Things my parents rarely had in.  No one had TV’s in the early days.

At Springfield school I remember having a Mrs Boswell who terrified me. I don’t remember learning much there .. not like when I went to Tapton where I found the teachers inspiring and the learning easy and lessons interesting. I think I would have done better with better teachers as I was a fanatical reader (mum used to make me sit on the step outside to read as I didn’t want to play out and she insisted I needed fresh air). I also remember saving my 2d. A week spending money to buy a beautifully illustrated book about “The World’s great Religions.  I remember having a Miss Hall teaching us at Springfield. I think she was partially deaf as on one occasion she caned Michael Jacques because he put his hand up at the wrong time. Realising her mistake she then plied him with sweets. I remember her having a “cracked” voice, grey hair and glasses.

The head teachers whilst I was there were Mr and Mrs Holdsworth. I thought they lived in the house in the school grounds but my mother says that was where the caretaker lived. The cook at the school was Mrs Cockayne and my mother worked part time as a dinner lady.

We all had a small bottle of milk each day. I also remember having what we called “X ray treatment” at a centre in Orchard Street I think it was. Not sure if this was a policy for making us all healthy or if it was just me having this. I didn’t know any of the other children and we would all be given goggles to wear and would play in a darkened room wearing our vest and knickers/pants (as it was mixed) with lamps shining on us.  I did have bronchiectisis as a child and spent some time in the children’s hospital. My doctor was Dr Halliwell and he said if caught early it could be cured. I also started having swimming lessons at the local baths to help. I still swim a lot and go to our local baths in Grimsby 3 times a week on average.

Opposite our house was a cobbler and a shop which sold cigarettes (you could get a pack split to buy two or five and I used to run errands to buy them for my parents). My father smoked from being a child when he picked up ends discarded by adults, until he died aged 74. I also remember a fish and chip shop although I think the last 2 shops weren’t there all the time we were. Latterly we bought our fish cakes (which were slices of potato with a slip of fish between them) and chips from a shop which was a walk away). We couldn’t afford fish.  The main shop we used was Lockwood’s which was at the bottom of Broomspring Lane opposite the school, which sold groceries and sweets. I remember buying ice lollies with banana slices in them, tea with savings stamps on the packets and hand sliced corned beef for tea. Latterly there was Ibbotson’s shop which was owned by my friend Noreen’s parents. It was on the corner of one of the roads between Broomspring Lane and the swimming baths.   I think this shop was more popular as it ran a tab and people were allowed to pay when they got their wages. We never did this even though money was tight. I do remember looking down the back of the sofa searching for a halfpenny so that we could buy an 11 and halfpenny block of stork margarine. I don’t remember having butter as a child though my grandma always did. She must have become better off once she had the state pension.

I don’t remember any social activities linked with school. However the churches around Broomspring Lane ran lots of activities for children. I remember a sewing class.. and i think it was a “high” or catholic church ran these. I vaguely remember nuns and an ornate and dark interior.  I also remember making religious banners and parading through the streets with them and I think this was some kind of evangelical church which was close by. Also I recall going to services and I think Brownies at St Silas church. Neither my parents or grandparents nor any neighbours (that I was aware of) went to church…though they were always respectful of religion.

At Whitsun all the children in the area would buy new clothes and visit the neighbours to show them their outfits and receive pennies from them.  I remember my mother buying us dresses and “duster” coats and matching hats. We would also go the Western Park where crowds would assemble under Banners. I don’t remember if this was a church related affair or if there were unions involved as well. We always assembled under the St Luke’s banner as my uncle was a trumpet player in their boys’ brigade band.

The school however did organise the May Day parade. A girl was chosen as may queen each year and was given a title e.g. Queen Rose or Queen Pansy and her parents would dress her in a flowery, fussy dress and she would be “crowned”. My sister did make maid of honour one year but I was always an onlooker…. The crown would be made of the flower she represented and once crowned she would parade with her attendants round the streets around the school.  I think she was carried on some sort of seat??

Every morning we would have assembly in school. We would sing hymns and have prayers. I remember wondering why no one else was concerned when the head teacher announced that one of our teachers was leaving to go to Hell. I later realised that she actually was saying Hull! Also for years I assumed the Head prayed for peace “living together and plain together” only finally to realise she had been saying “playing”. I think this must have been the deputy head teacher  speaking as it was definitely a woman who spoke the words and both she and her husband had more “refined” accents that I was used to .. coming from a family who spoke “broad Yorkshire”.’ 



This page was added by Jennie Beard on 28/01/2015.

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