The Nostalgia column with Margaret Watson - memories of Ravensthorpe

Margaret Watson.
Margaret Watson.

LAST week I wrote about my childhood in Springfield and also the people who became part of my life, and I asked other readers to tell me about theirs.

This week, I pass over my column to Harold Laycock, who writes about the Ravensthorpe of his childhood in the 1930s and 40s.

Early image: This photograph shows Huddersfield Roadin Ravensthorpe, possibly in the 1920s. It was taken long before Harold Laycock and his parents moved there.

Early image: This photograph shows Huddersfield Roadin Ravensthorpe, possibly in the 1920s. It was taken long before Harold Laycock and his parents moved there.

Although born in Gomersal, Harold came to live in Ravensthorpe with his parents and two sisters when he was aged three.

His parents had just taken over a shop in Huddersfield Road, and it is from that period in his life that Harold starts his story.

He writes: “Life wasn’t easy in the 1930s/40s without the modern aids to living, and like most families, we had only one main room – a living kitchen.

“Our bedrooms were above the kitchen and the shop, and we had no bathroom or indoor toilet. We had to go across the yard to the outdoor lavatories.

“There was no electricity.

“Lighting was either by gas or oil lamp, and the streets were also lit by gas, with the lamplighter coming round twice daily to switch them on or off.

“Cooking was either on the gas stove or open fire on which bread could be toasted by using a long handled toasting fork.

“Water had to be heated in a kettle on the fire or gas stove or in the side-pan located by the side of the fire, or in a boiler next to the sink.

“Bath night was a tin bath in front of the fire with the oldest and cleanest bathing first.

“The hot water had to be topped up for the later bathers.

“Carpets were rarely seen in homes, and floor coverings were mainly of “oil cloth” which was a very hard wearing canvas soaked in oil.

“Prodded rugs were placed in front of the fire. They consisted of a hessian backing in which strips of old clothing were forced through using a tool called a prodder.

“Rationing came into force on 8 January 1940 when many essential and non-essential foods were rationed, as well as clothing furniture and petrol.

“Bread and potatoes formed a large part of every meal, and on 11 March 1940, all meat was rationed.

“An adult’s weekly allowance was 500 grams of meat (including offal and sausages), 60 grams of butter and cooking fat, 125 grams of vitamin-enriched margarine, 90 grams of cheese and one egg.

“Tea and sugar were also rationed. Rationing of sweets and chocolate began on 26 July 1942. Rationing was controlled by coupons in a ration book.

“Milk was considered very important. An allocation scheme ensured that pregnant women and children received their essential requirement.

“Children at school, from time to time, had their feet checked for size, and those children whose feet exceeded a certain size were allowed extra clothing coupons.

“Dried milk and eggs supplemented fresh ingredients.

“Dried egg powder made excellent omelettes.

“Many food products, particularly those from overseas, such as bananas, were limited or unavailable until the end of the war.

“In addition to ration coupons, points were issued for tinned and imported food, for example, one tin of sardines six points, one tin of fruit, three points.

“Wild fruit (blackberries etc.), mushrooms, hare, pheasant, rabbits, trout etc. were often available.

“The process of de-rationing began in 1948, making slow progress until 1953 when eggs, cream, butter, cheese, margarine and cooking fats were taken off ration.

“Sugar and sweets were also taken off ration in 1953 and meat in 1954. People were generally healthier due to the effects of rationing and the more strictly controlled diets.

“Milk was delivered daily by the farmer on his horse drawn milk cart carrying urns of milk. The milk was scooped out of the urn into a jug.

“Sunday lunch was usually roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. Milk like most other food products having a very short shelf life had to be stored safely, often in a cool cellar.

“Meat and other short life consumables were either stored on a stone slab and covered or placed in a meat safe, a type of storage cupboard. Its door was covered with a perforated metal panel to allow air circulation and keep out flies.

“Flies were a major problem, particularly in warm weather. They were often caught on a length of sticky fly paper hanging from the light fitting.

“With no central heating we had to rely on open coal fires. The grate had to be cleared of ashes daily, and the fire then re-set and lit. If the wood was wet, a draw-tin or sheet of newspaper (rather dangerous as it often caught fire) was placed over the fireplace opening to draw the flames up the flue.

“Special firelighters treated with paraffin were placed under the wood to start the fire more easily.

“As coal was rationed, coke was often bought from the gas works (at the end of North Road), or briquettes from Shaw Cross colliery. Briquettes were formed from coal dust and cement.

“They left behind a messy black dust after burning.

“Chimney flues often got clogged up with soot and so had to be swept, otherwise they could catch fire, for which the fire brigade was called out to fight.

“If this occurred too often, a charge could be made by the Fire Service

“Radios were known as Cats Whiskers due to the type of aerial they had but the reception was often very poor.

“The aerial had to be moved around in order to improve reception.

“The radios were operated by storage batteries known as accumulators, and these had to be returned to a supplier for the acid to be replaced.”

Next week Harold will be writing about Dewsbury shops in those days, not only in Ravensthorpe, but in the town centre as well.

If you have childhood memories you wish to share, please contact me at