Do you remember Holbeck in the 1950s?

Tilbury's 1950s
View from Holbeck Cemetery looking west in 1950s
Tilbury's today
View from Holbeck Cemetery looking west today

The first photograph appears in ‘Beeston Days’ published by the Beeston Local History Society in 1991. It shows a view, around the 1950s, looking from Holbeck Cemetery, west towards Wortley and Armley. The second photograph shows almost the same view today. What a difference a day, or 60 years makes.

Can you spot the similarities? St Bartholomew’s church on top of the hill in Armley is clearly visible on both. There is also what looks like a chimney to the left of the church. Also visible on the two is a building in the yard of William G. Search Ltd (plant hire company) on Whitehall Road just below Wortley Rec’. Looking more carefully, the now disused LNWR Farnley railway embankment that runs parallel to Brown Lane can also be seen on the right hand side of the photographs. The Tilburys and Eustons cannot be seen on today’s photograph due to the trees on Beggars Hill.

One striking feature of today’s photograph is the number of trees that have appeared since the earlier photograph despite the increased number of buildings. Holbeck is perhaps a greener place than it once was. Maybe it is also a healthier place. Notice all the chimney stacks that were once belching out smoke and polluting the atmosphere. Although the old photograph is not very good quality, it does suggest a haze hanging over the city. Perhaps this has been replaced by the pollution from road transport.

The 1950s photograph takes me back to my youth. I was born and brought up in Tilbury Road (number 21). In the foreground of the picture is what I knew to be the quarry. A desolate area that was one of my playgrounds. The building on the right with the large chimney was the brickworks. These were kilns in which bricks were fired. It was a two-storey building. The kilns themselves were on ground level. The coal for the furnaces was physically fed in by workmen from the level above the kilns. My father worked there for a short while. When the kilns were emptied and open to the outside they were often frequented by passing tramps – a nice warm room for the night. The clay bricks were brought up to the kilns from a site further down Elland Road, nearer to the football ground, using a small cable railway. The fired bricks were returned using the same railway. The railway can be seen going to the left of the picture. As kids we used to hop a ride on the wagons, until one of the workmen came along and caught us and told us off.

The quarry was also a place to go to find tadpoles, frogs and newts. In later it years it became a council tip. Not only was the waste from our dustbins emptied there, but also black stinking sludge from the roadside grates which were regularly cleaned. This sludge often contained coins that had been lost down the grates. We used to go poking about in this mess to retrieve the coins – not a very healthy practice.

A dirt path followed the wall of the cemetery from Noster Terrace and then dropped down to Buckton Road and Malvern Street. We called this the ‘Quarry Path”. From the end of Malvern Street a dirt track led down to the end of Little Town Lane at its junction with Elland Road. We knew this track as ‘Beggars Hill’. Both the Quarry Path and Beggars Hill can still be found today. In the winter months when snow lay on the ground you could sledge all the way from Noster Terrace, down the Quarry Path, over Buckton Road and Malvern Street and then down Beggars Hill to finish on Little Town Lane. Sometimes the owner of the house at the end of Buckton Road would throw ashes from the coal fire on to the road to stop us sledging past the house.

A large expanse of waste ground is clearly visible in the 1950s photograph between the Eustons/Tilburys and Gelderd Road. Matthew Murray School was eventually built on part of this area. It was bounded by Brown Lane in the north, Wortley Beck in the west and Petty’s Field (Petty’s Printers sports field) in the south. Close to the houses were some allotments and garages. The rest of the area was waste ground. Maps show it to be called Islington but as kids we knew the area as ‘The Tips’. Being close to where I lived it was my main play area. Bike riding, bogie riding, kite flying, hide-and-seek, den building, fire building, apple scrumping and sledging in winter were among the activities we got up to. Sometimes horse-drawn gypsy caravans would set up camp on there but my parents told me to keep well away from them. In later years, Holbeck Feast was held in September for a short while on The Tips. I was there from the arrival of the first caravan to watch the rides being constructed until the Feast finished and the last caravan had left.

Television was just beginning to appear in most people’s living rooms at this time but ‘playing out’ took up most of kids’ time in these years. As a youngster, there seemed to be few restrictions on where we went or what we did as long as we stayed out of trouble. I even remember walking with my mates to Middleton Woods from home. Kids these days don’t know what they’re missing, forever playing on their computers and with so many restrictions on where they can go and what they can do.

If you have any comments you would like to make or memories you would like to share about the above please post a comment below.