Nostalgia column by Margaret Watson

Margaret Watson.
Margaret Watson.

HAVE you noticed that change is all around us these days?

Not only here in Dewsbury, but all over the country?

CONSTANT: This postcard shows five areas of Dewsbury that have stood the test of time.

CONSTANT: This postcard shows five areas of Dewsbury that have stood the test of time.

Indeed all over the world.

More people seem to be looking back rather than forward because they don’t like the fast pace of change being imposed on them.

They also don’t like the thought of what may be round the corner so they look back to what they believed were the happier times.

They like to recall the shops and cinemas they once frequented, the churches, pubs and clubs, all now gone.

These were places where people came together in their hundreds nearly every day, but we don’t seem to mix in large groups anymore.

The churches held meetings every night, divine services most days, also bazaars and bring and buy sales, garden parties, whist drives and processions through the streets. Not anymore.

The cinemas, five of them in Dewsbury at one time, were filled every night, so were the pubs and clubs. It was amazing how many different voluntary groups once flourished in Dewsbury, all bringing people together.

One such group still exists, Dewsbury Rotary Club, which continues to meet weekly, and raise lots of money for local charities.

They don’t have as many members as they once had and they don’t manage to attract the high profile speakers they once did, but the camaraderie and fellowship still exists in abundance.

Sir Montague Burton, founder of the famous men’s clothing shops, once spoke there in 1943 at a combined meeting of the Rotary Club and Dewsbury Round Table.

Nearly 200 people crowded into the Kingsway Cafe to hear him speak on what Britain would need to do after the war to achieve international and industrial peace.

The Montague Burton shops were at the time the largest merchant tailoring organisation in the world with stores in every major town in the country. Sir Montague was regarded as one of the most remarkable men living in Yorkshire, and yet he found time to come to Dewsbury to speak to the town’s business and professional fraternity.

Many in Dewsbury will still remember Burton’s shop in the Market Place, described in their advertisements as “The Home of Good Clothes”.

They will also remember other top men’s shops such as Jessops, Weaver to Wearer, John Colliers, Frank Cooke’s, Manners, Greenwoods, and Gerald Lee’s in Daisy Hill.

Many believe the saying – “The Full Monty” – was attributed to someone dressed up in a Montague Burton suit.

All these shops have gone, and with them a way of life, a time when people “dressed up” and when people came together in huge numbers for fellowship. Change indeed.

Still on the subject of men’s clubs, I read an article in the Reporter in 1934 about an interesting meeting members of the Round Table held in Dewsbury.

Instead of having a speaker at their meeting in Fullerton’s Cafe, they asked members to speak for five minutes on the subject – “If I were Dictator of Dewsbury”.

The Round Table in those days was regarded as Rotarians in the making because most of them did eventually join the Rotary Club.

This particular meeting took place in the days before Kirklees was even thought of, and when Dewsbury ran its own affairs.

Mr W Eastwood said he would first remove the Town Council and replace it with a body of salaried experts who would begin the task of re-housing and getting rid of the slums.

He would amalgamate the whole of the Heavy Woollen District and transfer the people from the thickly populated areas to the outskirts, leaving the centre of Dewsbury for progressive development.

Mr Cyril Fox said he would have all the chief roads in the town put into a proper state of repair at once because Dewsbury roads were the worst in the country.

He would also build houses with the object of the occupant ultimately purchasing them by weekly payments in the way of rent.

Uncleanliness would be a punishable offence and he would appoint someone to stop the emission of black smoke from factory chimneys.

He thought that mobile police had been a failure and in their place he would have a special squad to patrol the roads and detect careless drivers.

At Christmas time he would have Dewsbury illuminated from one end to the other, the cost to be defrayed out of the profits of the electricity undertaking.

Mr C Fozard said he would replace the Town Council with an Advisory Council, to consist of representatives of all trades and professions, so they would be completely in touch with everything that was happening in the town.

He would appoint a publicity expert, whose job would be to keep Dewsbury on the map, and he would see to it that inhabitants of the borough had a wider and fuller life with increased facilities for games and sports.

Mr E Hudson said that to an outsider Dewsbury appeared to be a town of rags and shoddy and if he were dictator he would dispel that idea because Dewsbury turned out some good stuff in the way of blankets, rugs and carpet yarns.

Mr H Keeble said his first job as dictator of Dewsbury would be to supplant the magistrates with a Stipendary.

He said 90% of the magistrates had never been inside a police court before their appointment, and in his opinion while magistrates were asking questions, Stipendaries were giving judgments.

Mr Harry Squires said he would supplant the Town Council with a Committee of Management representative of all trades, businesses and professions in the town,

He also said that all banks and building societies at present occupying buildings in the town centre, would all be housed in Bond Street and Union Street, and their present premises let as shops.

Finally, he would tax cyclists to pay for the cost of improving the roads.

It was certainly an interesting meeting and reading through it reminded me of how many things have changed in Dewsbury.

But looking at the postcard featured this week, I felt a little cheered to be able to see that not everything in Dewsbury has changed. We still have Crow Nest Park, the Town Hall, Longcauseway, and at the top of the hill Thornhill Parish Church.

Why Dewsbury Parish Church wasn’t featured on the postcard I do not know, but thank goodness we still have that with us, even though it has changed its name back to what it was hundreds of years ago – Dewsbury Minster.

It just goes to show that everything does change – even if it’s only a name.

If you have any pictures of former organisations and clubs and churches which once existed in Dewsbury, please contact me – or contact call 01924 433013.