Oldham Historical Research Group

MORE MEMORIES OF COLDHURST

In response to Irene Beever's Memories of growing up in Coldurst ( read HERE), we received the following 'open letter' from fellow Oldhamer, Tom Seville, sharing his own memories ...

Dear Mrs Beever

I have been reading with great interest your memories of Coldhurst. I was born in Boundary Park Hospital in 1943, and lived at the bottom end of Coldhurst Street just before its junction with Rochdale Road, until I left home to join the navy as a Boy Seaman at age 15.

I wonder if we have any memories in common, or if you can add to my remembrances of the area? We were not close neighbours but I had a good school pal, Barry King, who lived on Godson Street close to Booth Hill Lane. I wonder if you knew that family?

Maybe we attended the same Coldhurst Infant School, which was at the junction of Bradford Street and Crompton Street. My years there must have been in the 1948/53 period, but I remember that not long after I moved up to Coldhurst Junior School the infant school building was demolished. So it depends on the degreee of congruity of our ages whether you went to that same school.

Your article mentions Coldhurst Infants standing on Bradford Street and Magdala Street, but that was not the case. Magdala Street (Battle of Magdala, Abyssinia, 1868, suggesting a date for the origin of the street), was the next parallel street on which stood Coldhurst Hall cotton mill, the source of employment for my mother and father for many years.

I wonder if you knew another contemporary, Michael Garrett? His family lived in one of those impressive houses with long gardens immediately fronting the hospital. His close neigbour and close friend was Melvin Holt. Michael was a year or so ahead of me, but I remember a significant day at the infant school when we were assembled and Michael was paraded before us by the teachers and one or two higher education officials. He was, we were informed, an exceptionally bright boy who was now to be taken away from the school and placed in a special school for gifted children. It was mentioned among us that already he read the daily newspapers, information that as well as impressing us tremendously, also appalled us by suggesting he was already interested in matters proper only to deeply boring adulthood. In addition to his high intellectual capacity he was very tall, further enhancing his prestige in our eyes.

Coldhurst Junior School was in my memory on Stansfield Street, though you mention Stanford Street. In my time Mr Greaves was the headmaster, but Mrs Marsden, who lived in a charming and neat bungalow up on Sunfield Road, was known to us as the ‘head teacher’. Mr Greaves was a tall upright man with a clipped military moustache, very professional, as most teachers were in those days. By nature he was very intense as if to ascertain that his teachings were properly understood. Actually, it is easy to imagine a comic characterization of him as a “Mr. Bracewell”, the name of the headmaster you mention in your article.

A couple of other teachers still in my memory were Mr Mattinson, who had the most perfectly artistic blackboard handwriting imaginable. I think his only role was to teach handwriting, and all we had to do in his classes was to copy his handwritten texts, mostly relevant to current affairs, from his blackboard. He was even to our childish eyes, a man of very short stature. And there was Mrs Carter, brassy and talkative always smoking her cigarettes.

Was the school lollipop man the same Mr Chapman as during my time? I remember him, heavily attired in all-weather garments, and on freezing winter days could always be relied upon for a warm hug as he saw us across Rochdale Road.

When I last visited the town, many years ago, the school building was being used as some kind of Polish community church. And I see on current Google Earth display that it still exists, though much altered.
You do not mention your secondary school. Mine was St. Anne’s Secondary Modern. But maybe if you were able to acquire a position as a student nurse you went somewhere grander, Count Hill or Hume grammar perhaps?

You mention three butchers’ shops on our stretch of Rochdale Road. I remember two: Billy Grimshaw’s on the corner of Magdala Street, and Higginbottom’s further along close to the Eagle public house. Included in the various domestic and home service emporia along the road was, almost unbelievably, a gun shop. Its window displayed various kinds of rifle and other weaponry and it stood opposite what became and presumably still is the modern concrete town hall on Rochdale Road/ West Street.

You mention the Willow Bank public house on Featherstall Road and list names of licensees. One name I think is omitted. One of my best school pals over the years was Kevin Gledhill. His father was employed as a labourer and the family lived something of a roaming existence. Kevin’s attendance at school would be interrupted for a few months while the family was located elsewhere but he was soon back again. This was a repeated pattern over a long term. For a time they lived in that short terrace adjacent to the Imperial cinema, between the cinema and the little lock-up sweet shop on the next corner. The sweet shop was run by an Austrian lady whose name I cannot remember, but who was very friendly to us. Do you remember her?
Kevin’s family seemed to struggle for existence. For a short time they lived in a ‘prefab’, that ideal housing solution of the postwar Attlee government, but which for some reason right away degenerated to being habitations fit only for the most desperately homeless. They returned from the ‘prefab’ experience to live for a short time on that little street leading off Rochdale Road to Welbeck Street, in a tiny house. On a corner of that little street lived a man who carried on a firewood-making business. His yard was stacked out with firewood. I thought it was a nice uncomplicated business, though firewood was bulky and sold in those days for next to nothing.

However, by 1963 their ship seemed to have come in. Kevin’s parents became licensees of the Willow Bank. I remember this particularly because in the spring of that year I returned home after a two year tour of duty East of Suez, and being now 19 years of age I could officially get drunk. So it was very convenient that one of my best pals lived in a pub. Actually, we were always on our best behavior in consideration of his mother and father, and of course Kevin would not shame himself in front of his parents. But very suddenly his father died, and so ended their tenure. Perhaps the tenancy only lasted a period of months and may have been provisional and that is why it is not mentioned in the continuity of license holders.

I remember Marmaduke Street and the Marmaduke Liberal Club which my father used to frequent on weekends. He would quite often take my sister and me with him, and on the way was Granelli’s ice cream works where in passing we had big scoops of fresh ice cream. No ice cream can beat Granelli’s, and I have enjoyed ice cream in many parts of the world. On one side of Marmaduke Street was the Condor Iron works, which for some reason, maybe due to the Teutonic name and the glowering furnaces, held a deep fascination for me.

I think maybe that you are quite a bit younger than I am. When you were beginning your working life as a cadet nurse in 1967 I was already coming towards the end of my 10-year stint in the navy. So some of my memories will pre-date yours.

The Gaping Goose Hotel stood on the corner of Rochdale Road and Coldhurst Street. Its entrance lobby had a beautiful coloured floor mosaic of a goose with mouth agape and wings spread obviously in attack mode. One day when travelling on the number 9 bus along Rochdale Road the jokey bus conductor asked where I wanted to get off. I told him the Gaping Goose, and he said, You mean the Galloping Duck! And that’s how I have always since thought of it.

My father, Harold Seville, was from being a young man, back in the 1930s, employed by Coldhurst Hall mill as the winding room overlooker. In around 1966 he obviously saw the writing on the wall concerning his future prospects and left his job to take on the license of the Gaping Goose. At the time he would have been around 52 and he was likely the last licensee until its closure in the early to mid seventies.

William Bodden’s, Hargreaves Spindle Works, was immediately opposite our house at 170 Coldhurst Street. I remember when they worked night shifts how comforting was the light from their big windows into the darkness of my bedroom across the street. Much later, after my departure from the scene, it was taken over by Scraggs of Macclesfield.

It has been a pleasure reading your article and I only wish it could have been much longer...

Kind regards

Tom Seville

Irene Beever's page with memories of Coldhurst can be read HERE

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