Howdenshire History

Memories of Reedness, Yorkshire (II)

This page includes memories of baking, ironing, the coming of electricity, Glebe Farm, the stack yard, the stick hill, the old school site, the old flax mill, Ivy House Farm, Mawsons' cottage, Wheelgate Farm, Jasmine House, tennis, Reedness House, village shops, Half Moon Inn, Little Reedness...

Or go back to Reedness memories (I) - includes Cherry Tree Farm, Field House, the mill, the dynamite store, Council houses, road sweepers, steam ploughing, Rose Cottage Farm, Miss Laverack, Reedness Hall, cricket, Elm Tree House, listening to the wireless...



Here is a continuation of memories of Reedness in the 1930s, written by Mr Bill Wroot and reproduced with his kind permission.


Freeman’s Cottage
Nearby, opposite the Walled Orchard, is ‘Freeman’s Cottage’ where we lived. It would appear that at one time this was a farm in its own right. However, in the ‘30s, there was just the house and the garden and a number of outbuildings such as the coal house, wash house and pig sty at the back.

The other part of the farm had been incorporated into the property next door and taken over by the people who lived in Elm Tree House. They also owned our house and we paid 8s 6d a week to live in it, including rates! When we first went there a Mr Arthur Amery and his family were in occupation and we lived in a tiny cottage at the back, which is no longer there. It was ‘one up, one down’ with a huge fireplace, which had obviously been an inglenook long before and which had a big iron stove fitted into the space.

A short curved staircase led to the one bedroom, which we didn’t use as it had no ceiling and the sky could be seen through the tiles. Eventually, however, when Mr and Mrs Amery and their family moved to Swinefleet, we took over the main house and the cottage was allowed to fall down, but not before the very large window was removed and fitted in our new abode. Also, the cooking range was taken out and placed in the other house, complete with stone mantel and mantel shelf.


The cooking range and its use
This was a very large stove complete with oven, hot water tank, fireplace etc. The stove was black iron with stainless steel decoration needing daily attention with black lead and emery paper. The ashes were caught on a tray beneath the fire and the aperture was covered with a self-standing tin screen usually shiny black with chrome decoration called a ‘Tidy Betty’.

In addition to the paraphernalia used for daily cleaning - brushes, black lead cloths, buckets for ashes and for hot water, emery paper etc. - it was essential to have a goose wing for cleaning out the fire ash, as a goose wing did not blow the dust about. The pointed end cleaned corners and crevices and, although all this was performed with a burning fire, the wing may have singed but it never burnt.
It was usual to light the fire each morning and get the kettle boiling, then the day could begin.

Most of these stoves had a water boiler with a lid, but over the years someone had forgotten to put water in to this one and it had cracked beyond repair, so it was used for the fire sticks or kindling for fire making. Dry wood was essential for a quick start.

The oven was fitted out with thin iron shelves; usually three, which slid on to runners. In winter the shelves and hot bricks kept in the oven would be wrapped in cloths and used to warm up the beds.


Baking day
On baking day, usually Thursday, the steel plate between the oven and the fire would be removed and some of the hot coals pushed under the oven. Dead branches would be inserted through the aperture and pushed further in as they burned, thus heating the oven for the weekly baking session.

The heat to the oven could be controlled in a fashion by using the damper plate above the oven which directed and regulated the flow of air round the oven and into the chimney, and/or by restricting the heat drawn under the oven by adjusting the plate between the fire and the oven, and/or by restricting or boosting the actual fire in the fire place.

The housewife would be able to judge the temperature of the oven by touching the knob on the door fastening mechanism. Usually bread, requiring the highest temperature, would be baked first and thereafter, as the heat reduced, came the turn of the other dishes such as pies, cakes, puddings and so on. It was not a simple operation, taking into consideration all the variations both in heat requirement and the types of dishes; no two ranges were the same and a housewife had to know her own oven.

An iron ‘bridge’ connected to the side of the oven could be lowered over the fire where pans and kettles could be boiled. At the front were the fire bars, which stopped coal and ashes falling on the hearth, and there was an extension above the bars which could be moved in three different ways. Pushed up, it permitted the fire to be built higher; dropped forward, it acted as a shelf or support for pans etc; or, it could be lowered down in front of the bars out of the way.


Another piece of equipment was hung on the front of the fire bars. This was about one foot square and the front part could be lowered to form a shelf and was used for keeping dishes warm or, on Tuesdays, to hold the flat irons used for laundry or pressing clothes.

The way to check these irons for the correct heat would be either to hold the heated surface close to your cheek or to hold the plate uppermost and then spit on to it. If the spittle bounced off, the iron was ready for use. There were a number of different sizes of iron and of differing weights, for use according to the task in hand.


Making toast
Toast was made by spearing the slice of bread on the toasting fork and holding it close to the fire to brown on one side, then the other side; always butter the side toasted last!

Most fireplaces had their attendant nuisances. Black Clocks, a type of cockroach about one inch long, loved the warmth and thrived on crumbs etc. They lived in the cracks and cavities round the base of the fireplace and could be kept in check, but not totally eradicated, by the use of ‘Keatings Powder’. Silverfish, a kind of tiny grey insect, feasted on the dry wall paper paste and basked in the warmth of the fireside.


Wired for electricity
In 1941 my father suddenly decided that, as electricity must come to the village at some time in the future, and as I worked for George Cowling, he did not want to miss the opportunity to be ready for the great day. So George and I went to our house and we installed light fittings and power sockets into the various rooms at a price of one pound per point!

It was, in fact, many years after the war before electricity did arrive in Reedness although it had been installed in Swinefleet for some years.


Wells and pumps
There was a lot of garden at the back of the house, but one of the things that worried my parents was that in the small yard immediately behind the house there were no less than three wells and two pumps. Neither of the pumps worked but they were still there and with the lead piping leading into beautifully made brick lined shafts. The two wells with the pumps were dry, but there was a huge one near the back door which was covered with flagstones. We kept the lid of this one padlocked, as this well was full of water all the time. The cellar under the house was adjacent to this well and we always had four to five inches of water in the cellar, which kept it very cool. Tom and Eva Dixon next door made their own butter and in the summer brought the butter and put it in our cellar, where there was a large raised stone slab especially for that purpose and where it was kept nice and cool.

At this time one would very rarely find water taps in the houses and, where there was a group of houses, then they would have one communal tap outside. Many people therefore used an enamelled bucket with a lid, which they would fill at the tap then place near the back door of the house. Then they used a ‘ladling can’ (or a ‘lading can’, as it was called), dipping it in the bucket and then filling the kettle or pan.


Glebe Farm
Next door then we had the Dixons at Glebe Farm. The word ‘Glebe’ indicates that it was part of the parson’s living and so, of course, they paid their rent to the Rev. James Herring, MA.

Thomas Dixon lived there with his wife Eva, who was formerly a Drayton from Swinefleet Common, and with their family of three boys and three girls.
This house had once been two semi-detached cottages, and two separate Lumb families lived there at one time.

It is recorded that when the school on the opposite side of the road was closed and demolished in 1873 the Rev. Williams, the vicar at that time, was authorised by the Archbishop of York to use materials from the old school to repair these two cottages.

The stack yards were to the rear of the house, together with the fold yard and stable etc with a barn attached to the house.


Chicks and ducklings
There was a garden and orchard to the east of the property and here in spring were little huts (cratches), each with a hen inside, together with the newly hatched chicks. Vertical wooden bars at the front prevented the old hens from roaming but allowed the chicks to run in and out. Once the hen and chicks had bonded they could be allowed out together, the hen clucking away and the chicks racing after her. Of course, it wasn’t only chicks that were raised; there were also ducklings, and it was very funny to watch the ducklings, as when they were old enough to waddle about, they would waddle off down the yard with the old hen behind them. They headed straight for the pond, launching themselves into the water, while the old hen frantically clucked and ran along the shoreline after them.


We were talking about chickens and, of course, you always got too many cockerels. A fresh cockerel every year was necessary for breeding, but of course there were a lot of surplus cockerels and these were all put into one pen with restricted movement, so they didn’t have a lot of room to run about in. They were well fed and they were called ‘Stags’. They were fattened up for Christmas. I’ve been across at Dixons around Christmas time when the whole place was absolutely covered with feathers in all directions from the plucking of these birds.


The stack yard
At the back of the property was the stack yard, which had to have a firm base to stand the stacks on. Generally this was made of brick rubbish and was called a ‘staddle’ or ‘steddle’.

The farmer brought his crop in from the field and then they would form it into stacks, so it would be protected from the rain. They would have had stack sticks about a yard long – beech sticks with a point on one end - and then it would all be tied down with string.

This string was usually binder twine, which we called ‘hairy band’. String wasn’t string in Reedness: it was band. You got white sugar band for tying your groceries up, and you got ‘hairy band’ for tying the sheaves. There is the old question of ‘when does a sheaf become a bat?’ Well, you shove it through the threshing machine and when it comes out of the bottom and you tie it up: well, it’s now a ‘bat of straw’ – or it used to be.


The stick hill
The home field at the back of the house at Glebe Farm was used for grazing and cattle would also be there, together with the horses happily kicking their hooves in the air, having had the harness removed after a day pulling the plough or farm cart.

This field featured not only the pond but an unusual ‘structure’ at the bottom end of the field. I don’t know whether they had them in any other part of the world – I now live in the Old East Yorkshire, and they haven’t even heard of a ‘Stick Hill’! Every three or four years the farmer would trim the hawthorn hedges round the field and all the tree branches and hedge cuttings would be piled in a heap towards the back of the field, creating a perfect ‘Des-Res’ for rabbits. Here they had all their runs and nests underneath it, safe from predators.

For three or four years they were allowed to live and breed in peace, and then one year, in November, the farmer would say, ‘We’re tonnin’d stickhill ower, Setdy 11 o’clock,’ and so all those who’d been invited would parade up there. First they would go down the field and erect a wire netting fence in a circle about four yards all round the stick hill. The old branches etc. would be removed, then the digging began. Rabbits came scooting out – that is, if they could get out. All the dogs were running round the outside, keen to get at these rabbits scooting about inside. So, rabbits would be pulled out of the burrow, tapped behind their ears and thrown over to the other side of the fence, where they would all be collected. As the day wore on, more of the branches were thrown off, and in the end, their final refuge exposed, the rabbits would be dug out one after another.

In between time, sandwiches, tea and cake were all brought up from the house - sustenance for the workers. When it was all over and cleared away, everybody would get a rabbit and off we all went home - having had a fantastic day. And what happened to the rabbits? Well, they were taken to ‘Hopleys’ in Goole.
There was a competition between farmers; each tried to be the last one to turn his stick hill as, should any rabbits escape, they’d go seek refuge under another stick hill until they had all been turned and there were no stick hills remaining. I can’t imagine that any did escape, with a wire fence all round, men digging, and then on the outside were the dogs – farmers didn’t have small dogs; they were always big fearsome creatures to keep people off the farm, so I can’t imagine there were many surviving rabbits.

Mrs Dixon, in addition to helping on the farm and the land and to bringing up six children, churning the butter and running the household in general, had a rare gift: this was breaking horses, and she could often be seen on the road with the long reins on a young horse, pulling a large tree trunk, getting it ready for the cart and the plough.


Site of the Old School
On the opposite side of the road, between the eastern wall of Reedness Hall orchard and a field gate, was a chicken run and a large garden. Here had been the old Maintained School. There were no signs of its existence except for a high wall, and a gateway now closed up. This was also parish property. Mr George Mawson rented it from the vicar and my father sub-rented part of it from him. There were chickens there, and a small orchard at the back with gooseberries and raspberries and various soft fruit bushes. My father had his plot of land, about one third of the garden, where he grew vegetables for the family. Mr George Mawson had the rest of the garden.

One of the interesting things, which at the time didn’t mean a lot to me – I was just fascinated by it – was that my father often found pieces of clay pipe when digging his plot. Perhaps at some time in the past there may have been a gentlemen’s smoking club there. The occasional pipe bowl was also found – there must have been literally dozens of them broken and thrown away to be buried in the garden.

Along the other side of this garden and over the hedge was a narrow strip of land, which led to a grass field with a pond (Parson’s Close). This was also glebe land and rented by the Dixons. In spring it gleamed gold with buttercups. Both horses and cattle were kept in this field, which stretched to the riverbank. Over the hedge on the left the ‘Cricket Pavilion’ could be seen with the pitch beyond. The older maps show a plantation (‘plantin’) of trees all along this hedge and onto the riverbank behind Reedness Hall.


The old flax mill
And then next door we come to an area of land which, years ago, was a factory where they used to scutch ‘line’ or flax. The owner had put in a steam engine to run the scutching machine instead of them having to do it by hand. There had also been a large pond where the flax was soaked.

Then these buildings disappeared and Tom Clark, who was a builder and married to Mr Halkon’s sister Kate, built his own house there, re-using all the bricks. It’s a good-looking house with two front bays.

The front room on the left was a billiards room. Tom was a keen billiards player and he used to go to Goole to play in the team there. This, to us, was a wonder of the world - that somebody should have all these things in his front room! He would also ride a bicycle with turned-down handle bars; a racing bike, which again was ‘different’. And his name was Tom and he used to insist that his kids used to call him ‘Moggy’ - Tom Moggy – which again was unusual, because none of us dared call our father anything other than ‘father’ or ‘dad’. So we felt that that was another wonder of the world. He also built a wall in front, which didn’t spoil the view from the window.


Ivy House Farm
Opposite Clarks’ house, next door to Dixons, was Ivy House Farm where Mr Harry Cowling had his farm.

As you came in through the gate on the right there was a gig-house. Few people owned a car in those days: you had a gig. There was an open-fronted low-roofed shed, which was for farm carts. And then there was a shed where you could boil your ‘pig’ potatoes, and then a further shed with a bench and equipment for mending things. Then you had the stables and cow house and then, in the centre, the fold yard with locally-produced manure for the fields.


Ivy House Farm, Reedness, Yorkshire

A view of Ivy House Farm, Reedness


Mr Cowling was in the forefront of agricultural life as he had the first Dutch Barn in Reedness. Now there’s something for you. They were new and he had one. Of course, the corn harvest could be stacked there with no need for thatching.
Ivy House Farm isn’t the house you see there now. There used to be an older farm house. And at the back of this house had been built an extension many years ago, which formed a dining room. It was a long, narrow place, which was removed with the old house. And right at the bottom end of this narrow room was the stove and the fireplace, where the cooking was done. Then there was a table at which they ate.

One day Mrs Cowling herself told me that, some time earlier, there had been a storm and it was thundering, when suddenly this greeny ball came through the open kitchen door, shot down past the table into the fireplace and went up the chimney. And I think that this was ‘ball’ lightning; a phenomenon that was only seen every 60 to 80 years, but it does happen – and, if you hear of it, it is said it heads for an exit. My grandmother, who lived a bit further down the village, used to open all her windows when it thundered and lightninged so that, if anything got in, it could get out again. She also had special curtains to hang over her mirrors and they never had a meal during a thunderstorm because it was said that lightning would strike the steel cutlery. I mean, you can take the thing a bit too far, but that’s what they believed in those days.

The Cowling family of Ivy House Farm had a daughter, Kathleen, who married Eric Dixon from Ousefleet/Whitgift. She was the first bride to be married in the chapel in Reedness. Before that, it had never been used for marriages and her father paid the licence fee for it, so she was the first. The other remarkable thing about that family was that they had twins; a boy and a girl, about a year younger than I. In those days people who had twins were few and far between in the village.


The Mawsons’ cottage
So, there we were at Ivy House Farm with Mr and Mrs Cowling and now we go on to a little cottage, which was next door.

This small cottage is no longer there. It had no garden to it and there was nothing at the back, just this very small cottage with a front door and a back door, and a bit of garden in the front. It was two up and two and a half down. And there Mr and Mrs Mawson lived. He was the son from the mill, of which I wrote earlier, and he had been a ‘horse keeper’ at various places. He could remember his employer hiring him out on one occasion, for which he had to take the pony and trap to Goole station and collect their guests who were arriving to go to Ousefleet Hall. These traps were hired from various people for all the ladies and gentlemen who used to be taken to the Hall by road.

At the same time they had two girls - they married - and there was a lodger, Miss Lillian Martha Oates, who came to Reedness and was a teacher. She taught me at school and she came from a fantastic place – the Isle of Man. Did she eat the same things as I, coming from this mysterious island? Anyway – she eventually married a farmer from Whitgift, Harry Ella – and became Mrs Harry Ella. And, once they gave the farm up, they moved into Reedness. But that was a long time afterwards.


Wheelgate Farm
Across the road again we have Wheelgate Farm. It’s called ‘Wheelgate Farm’ as, in those days, it had a wooden gate with an actual cartwheel incorporated into it. The farm still has a wheel in the gate but today it is a wrought iron gate.

It was a very small farm belonging to John Cowling and his wife, and they had a daughter called Ivy. They had a car. The Cowlings at Ivy House had a car as well - there were only nine cars in the village!

And then you come to as what is known as ‘Kingdom Lane’. It comes from the main street and down to the riverbank. Why it is called ‘Kingdom Lane’, I haven’t the faintest idea, and these days there is a sign there saying ‘right of way’. As far as we were concerned it was a ‘right of way’ then anyway. This was the point where the water drained from the roads was channelled to the dyke.


Jasmine House
Next to Wheelgate Farm is Jasmine House. This was the residence of Mr Joseph Barrett and his family. Mr Barrett was married to a Miss Ella and he had three daughters; two of them were called Mary and Lucy, and I can’t remember the other one. They lived in certain style. He was a tax collector for the area from Garthorpe and all the villages from there to Eastoft and Swinefleet, Reedness and Adlingfleet and Whitgift. He was also the clerk to the Parish Council, and he was also the local surveyor. And so, if you bought a farm and you had a field which you thought wasn’t as big as it ought to be, you would hire him and he had one of those measuring chains – the type which had a brass label on it giving the measurement - and he would measure the field with that, with an assistant to hold the chain; and he would record the measurement on his maps. Then he would put a post in the ground where the edge of the field was.

Mr Barrett’s wife was formerly Miss Ella, from Ousefleet, and there was a Mr Ella at one time who did that same job as Mr Barrett used to do – and he had all the old maps as well, so I suppose that Joe Barrett got these old maps from him and took over his surveying business. A very well spoken man and highly educated.

I remember there was a dispute once between two farmers – one had put a new fence up between his two fields and the other farmer thought he’d ‘got it ower far over to’d right’, and so Mr Barrett was called in and, of course, you had to pay for these services. So Mr Barrett went in, measured it, and, sure enough, this fence was quite a bit too far over. So he put a stake in where he said the thing should be and about two days later he was called out again because this farmer thought it had been moved. And lo and behold – it had. So this time he charged them twice as much.


Playing tennis
Mr Barrett had rather a nice establishment there. There was a building very much like a small barn, with lots of cages in it. It looked as though dogs had been kept there at one time. And then he had a field going right down to the riverbank. Also, like the Clark family, of which I wrote earlier, he had a tennis court. So, he had three daughters and a tennis court. In Ousefleet there was a tennis club, and so, at the time, you would get all the ‘young things’ dressed in their tennis gear coming to the Barretts and the Clarks for a game of tennis. Miss Oates, who I mentioned, from the Isle of Man, and Mr Ella, who had a farm at Whitgift, were both in the Tennis Club and eventually he obviously gave the right serve and they got married.

Closer to modern times, one of the people who used to go there playing tennis was Frank Garner from Garthorpe, who was a potato dealer’s son. He had one of the first Jaguar SS cars with huge headlights in front. As boys, we used to gaze at this vehicle and dream, ‘I’ll have one of those one day’. When he came down the road at night with these two search lights – well, you didn’t need any other light in the village (not that we had any!).


Mr Barrett’s bicycle
One of the things that I’ll mention here is that bicycles in those days were built of steel and they were very heavy. Mr Barrett was a very, very big man in all directions. He didn’t have a car and he travelled all round these villages doing his tax business on his bike; and he had to have a specially built bicycle. The saddle was a huge thing – mind you it needed to be, to accommodate him. In those days you didn’t put your leg over and push off. What you did as a man, as you had a cross bar and the bike was high – you put your foot on the pedal and pushed, and then swung your leg over and tried to keep the bike balanced. Mr. Barrett was a huge man and it was quite fascinating to see him get his bike out, put his bike clips on and then launch himself off – it was a sight to see.


Village notices
To the side of Jasmine House, on the property on the left bordering on to Kingdom Lane, was a place where people in the past had a place where you kept your trap or a gig. It had two wooden doors – I never saw them open – but that was the village notice board. Mr Barrett was responsible for supplying us all with the information we required. So, on there you would have notice of elections, pictures on how to spot a certain fly that gets onto potatoes … all kind of things were on this notice board. And so, as a boy, it was always very informative – and, as you went past, you read it and wondered where ‘Osgoldcross’ was, because we were apparently in the ‘Osgoldcross’ division – we didn’t know that until then!


Reedness House
And next door we have Reedness House. Reedness House, at that time, was owned by the Major family. It was where the Irelands lived previously. (I wrote earlier about how their great grand father became my great grandfather without me knowing it.)


old view of Reedness House, Reedness, Yorkshire

An old view of Reedness House


Anyway, the Majors lived there and they were a family of three brothers. Two of them married locally and the other, I think, remained a bachelor. Walking past the house on certain days, probably Saturdays in summer, the family could be seen having a little garden party with all their invited friends. Of course, it was all very dressed up with everybody wearing white.
What I remember the most about the house was that there were ornamental railings along the front and there was also a garden in the centre of the front lawn. It was oval and about 9 yards in length, a Victorian concoction in the shape of a large flower basket. Large plants were grown at both ends of this garden and, over the centre of it, there was a lace patterned metal arch covered with rambling roses; with all the flowers in the bed, it really did look for all the world like a large flower basket.


The painter comes
It must have been 1939/40 when these railings and all their gates were painted green. This work was done by a man from Old Goole; a Mr Fish, I think. You must remember that, in those days, all the young men had gone off to war, so this elderly gentleman came who had been in the decorating business all his life. He had a bull-nosed Morris car. He wrote a warning on the flagstones - “Wet Paint” - but spelt it “Whet Paynte”. A few weeks later the workers from the Rural District came and sawed all the railings off to turn them into bombs. The reason that I mention it is that, when he finished at Reedness House, his next job was to paint the clock at Whitgift Church; that was when the XIII-o-clock first appeared.


The Middlebrook family
The Majors then moved off to London, where they had a potato business, and Mr Ernest Middlebrook and family moved in. He was the brother of the Middlebrook of Swinefleet who owned the threshing machines. The Reedness daughter of the family was called Maisy and she married a wartime Padre. The 1901 census shows that Ernest was then aged 16 and an apprentice blacksmith with Richard Roberts in Swinefleet.

He then turned to farming. Irelands had left the farm to a College and it still belongs to them. They didn’t keep it in the family. Apparently they had studied there and so, when they all moved away, they left it to their College. And then the Bakers took it. When Mr Middlebrook left the farm, he built the first bungalow in Swinefleet Fields for a well-earned retirement. That was the first bungalow nearest to Swinefleet.

The next occupants of Reedness House were the Thompson family. Mr Thompson Snr was very much a gentleman farmer; he wore a cape and a Sexton Blake hat. He brought two innovations to the village. One was that he kept a bull kept in the field straight opposite the house. This field had a ‘Ha-Ha’ with a low wall to provide a vista from the house. The bull was a huge creature and had a brass-striped board strapped to its face, so that if it ran into anything it wouldn’t damage itself very much. This was the first time we had seen a bull in the village. Of course, in order to see you, the animal had to lift its head up – and by the time it got its head down to charge you, it had lost you again.

The other new idea was an ‘electric fence’ - a trap for the unwary and the source of much hilarity. The family farmed there during the war.


Terrier racing
In years gone by, before even Middlebrooks got there, in the field in front of the house, which goes a long way back, they had terrier racing. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen terrier racing, but of course, one of the main things you’ve got to have is a terrier. Now, there were all kinds of terriers; they were taken down to the bottom of the field, where it was marked out with stack pegs, and a friend of the owner of the terrier stood at one end of the course with the dog. At the other end would stand the owner, who would have a yellow duster or a white handkerchief. He made a particular noise which his terrier understood, and when the referee set the race off, these terriers used to belt along a couple of hundred yards or so; and, at the other end, were these terrier owners, waving their yellow dusters or handkerchiefs, shouting and making silly noises. And, of course, the first one off always won.

Opposite the Post Office was another field and it had the type of fencing that indicated that it was part of the Reedness House estate. At one time, down at the bottom of the next field, they used to have bicycle racing there on ‘ordinary’ bicycles.

Further along there is a plantation and field, which was all fenced off with this particular kind of fencing and which was also part of Reedness House estate. You could climb over the fence and walk through the plantation, or ‘planting’, as it was called, and get onto the riverbank. It was never a right of way but nobody bothered you when you went there.

While the Thompsons were there several of the trees were felled, four of which were on the riverbank. They were across the bank, so if you went for a walk you had to hop over these trunks. One was fetched down on the roadside. If ever you’re wondering why that fence has got a gap in it; well, it was cut out so that they could get the tree out and it was never replaced.

The field on the other side where they had the cycle race had two stone pillars, and a fairly fancy metal gate. What had been there previously, I don’t know. On the right of it there was a slight mound, about six yards from the fence, which we used to use for playing Robin Hood. You’d get a stack peg and some hairy band for the bow, and the arrows were reeds from the riverbank. But one day, Ronald Clark got his eye shot out and nobody ever played that game again all the time I was there.

Until 1939 this field was always was pasture but the war saw it planted with potatoes.

Just beyond the planting there were two cottages, which belonged to Reedness House. They had no back way to them; they only had the fronts. There was also a patch of land where there was a huge cherry tree; it flowered every year beautifully but there were never any cherries on it.

I remember these cottages well. There was one room downstairs, which was the sitting room; a kitchen; one small bedroom, and a larger one upstairs. In the far one, my maternal grandparents lived, and in the nearest one to the road was their daughter - of course, my aunt and uncle.


Village shops
The village post office and telephone exchange was on the opposite side of the road, open from 9am to 7pm. The exchange was run on wet batteries in an outhouse, and was manually operated.

Behind the post office was the carpenter, joiner, wheelwright, coffin maker, house painter, window repair man and paraffin supplier. The coffin maker, Joseph Dixon, had a handcart (with springs) to deliver his hand made coffins, in which he put the departed. You could borrow this handcart and/or pasting board for 3d.


Old postcard showing the Post Office and village shops in Reedness


The blacksmith’s shop was the next establishment; Walter Dunn, the brother-in-law of Joseph Dixon, worked there. This was where horses were shod and farming implements repaired. Across from the smith were two benches where the elderly village worthies assembled; the black blobs on the road there were witness to tobacco chewing and spitting par excellence.

This area was the ‘local parliament’ – news came in from the whole area; carts for mending and horses for shoeing, letters posted and parcels collected and people off to the shop just a few yards away. Births, marriages and deaths – everything was discussed here.

A row of cottages further along were demolished as unsanitary; their rubble still remains. Their former occupants moved into four new Council Houses (built in 1937) opposite the Half Moon Inn; the field in which these houses were built was that used for the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene Fair on the 22nd/23rd July.
A low large white cottage on the left was the workshop for repairing farming machinery. It was next to the village shop, run by Mr Graham. Almost anything could be bought there! Cards hung round the walls offering rows of babies’ dummies, Ipecacuana wine, castor oil and olive oil. The window was full of sweets. Those in boxes cost 2d a qtr and those in bottles costs 3d qtr, a Mars Bar 3d, a Milky Way 2d. Paraffin was also on sale in the middle of the shop in a large tank. All the groceries were available and later SLICED BREAD; a great wonder. Near the shop was Ash Tree Farm, home of the Leeman family.


Half Moon Inn
Then we had the Half Moon Inn, with a scattering of houses behind it and a right of way to the river. The pub was a dreary place, smelling of beer, with brown walls and, in fact, brown everything from cigarette smoke, and having no toilets, only an open Gents built on to the front of the building. Still, on Fridays and Saturdays it was full – there was a singing room with a piano and people also came to play darts, dominos and, round the back, Quoits. The Sick and Dividing Club also met at the Half Moon on Friday evenings. Ladies, however, did not go into pubs in Reedness at that time.


Old view of the Half Moon Inn, Reedness


The Methodist Chapel on the north side has been there for over 100 years, with its unique clock and street lantern. Then, after the row of cottages, was a further small farm; the farmer who lived there used to store his car and farm machinery in the disused chapel across the road.


old view of Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, Reedness, Yorkshire

Old view of the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, Reedness


The small building on the right was a bicycle outlet for a Goole dealer, Bamforth, of North Street. There also was the first cigarette machine in the village. Nearby, the large building set back from the road was the old Manor House – it is now made into four family dwellings with vegetable gardens. Next door was the shop and home of the village shoe repairer, Cornelius Hobson – this is now demolished.


The drain
Opposite stood a further row of small cottages, whose gardens bordered onto the riverbank, and a Runlet Drain, which took water from the Common and fields into the River Ouse. This was known as the Drain Stones, along the side of which was a field known as Old Hill and a right of way to the river. At the head of the drain there was a strange-looking boat which had a small steam engine and a ‘rake’ at the back – it was used to rake the silt from the drain head into the river current and was used on both sides of the river. It was called the ‘Hillrake’. Old Lane was then on the opposite side, leading to Ryefield Farm, Slacks Well and the Causeway, then on to Mawgra (Unease) and Highfields Farm.

Continuing east, there were a number of cottages, the first of which was the home of the chimney sweep, of whom many stories were told! He was a bachelor and rather a character in the village. On the opposite side of the road was a large market garden – Prospect House - owned by two brothers and their niece, which exported its produce to Goole and Hull.

Further along stood the remains of a disused primitive Methodist Chapel. Now the road joins the riverbank with a large grassy area on which cows are kept. When the high spring tides brought the salmon, this area used to flood to the bank top and at night you could hear the porpoises grunting as they chased the salmon. There were trees growing here, and further along you could see the lighthouse. After a large pasture field with a pond was the Manor House, with its bay windowed front, large wooden gate, pigeon cote, barns, stable and other outbuildings. There were iron gates in the cellar and lovely gardens to the rear, together with an adjacent field behind a low brick wall.


The vicarage
Next came the vicarage, former home of Parson Herring and his housekeeper. He arrived in the 1800s and retired in 1939. The vicarage has a large garden with a high stone capped wall. Behind the house are various buildings and a barn with two grass fields often used for garden fetes and the like. Adjacent was the Parochial Hall (or rooms), a long, low buillding flanking the road, equipped with chairs and table, crockery, cutlery, a kitchen with a copper, and a piano; everything one needed for entertainment. A further row of cottages and two further cottages then flank the coal yard and garage of our local supplier.

Here the river returns to the High Banks. Just as the road turns there was a small farm, which supplied pasturised milk to the School (1/2d for 1/3 pint). The road moves round a plateau on which the Village School stands: this was the ‘Carrol’. Built in 1879, the Primary School had one headmaster and three other teachers. The area west of the school garden was divided into plots where the older boys, aged 12 to 14, were taught gardening, two boys to a plot. At the other side were allotments rented to local families and, opposite, stood the caretaker’s house and, until 1929, the remains of the village corn mill.


Little Reedness
Now we leave Reedness and enter Little Reedness. Here, once again, the road bordered the High Banks of the river where, just west of the farm each year, when tides were high, the water would burst through and into a ditch on the other side of the road. There was an answer to this problem: an old oak door was found when carrying out recent piling work, presumably once used for blocking the influx of river water into the ditch.

On then we go, past various houses; a white house was the village shop, kept by my aunt, Mrs Rose Walker, who sold all the village groceries, paraffin and so on. Behind the shop was a large garden and orchard. There was a row of small cottages fronting directly onto the street, with some older cottages behind them. There was also a larger house, belonging to Mrs Leeman, where fish and chips were on offer on Fridays and Saturdays; very handy for customers of the nearby pub. A long low single storey building would have next appeared, with two large wooden doors. This was where the Whitgift Ferry Boat was kept, and harkens back to medieval times.

Then, we come to the last building in the village: the Angel Inn and Ferry House, with its stable and outbuildings, and a large yard at the back. It was a real hostelry and handy for the ferry passengers.

Leaving Little Reedness by Church Lane, we reach Whitgift, in which stands the 700-year-old Church of St Mary Magdalene, and the churchyard where the rude forefathers of the village sleep. On the church tower is the famous clock, which numbers 13 instead of 12. In wartime, a searchlight detachment was also at the end of Church Lane. The old gibbet was also here, with Ned Mangrell.


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