Friday 18 January 1918
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Looking back at Baildon during the Crimean War
An un-named Baildonian wrote a long reflection on life in the Township 60 years earlier. Some of it has been extracted to make it more accessible. A few recollections of Baildon as it was sixty years ago may be of interest to some and may awaken in others memories of past days, when we were boys together. Baildon at that date had nothing especially attractive about it, nothing to draw the attention of the stranger or antiquary. Of course, the old market cross, the stocks and the two old halls have always been held as witnesses of a bygone age. Mists of antiquity Who erected the old cross and the time when it was erected, there are no records today; all seem lost in the mists of antiquity. The stocks, too, tell us of old-time punishment for minor offences while the old halls take us back to the time of Queen Elizabeth. Sixty years ago education was at a low ebb. Only two schools, the National and Woodhead Schools, were in existence and they had to serve the greater part of the township. Neither the authorities nor the inhabitants troubled themselves about sanitary matters; water ran where it liked and sewage did the same. Drinking water had to be fetched from where we could get it and in very dry seasons, had to be brought from the water works. The wells in Kelcliffe supplied the higher parts but it was often spoiled by the ducks swimming in it and making it useless for domestic purposes. There were no police then, at least not in Baildon. The law was represented by constables and churchwardens When the constable had a case, he had to take him to Otley and if no conveyance could be got, he had to tramp with him all the way. It was not a desirable office. Every Sunday the churchwardens used to patrol some part of the township. Churchwardens carried a long black pole, a sign of their office and powers. The wardens seemed to have power to act as guardians of the law. I remember being in Lane Ends one Feast Sunday when the wardens overturned two stalls that were selling their wares and scattering the contents in the road. There were no closing hours for publicans at that time. Whether it was
Sunday or week-day made no difference; they could keep open as long as they pleased, without any intervention. The wardens had no power to enter there. During the Crimean War Baildon suffered severely. Many families were practically starving and had to seek parish relief. We think food is dear now but it is nothing compared to what it was then. Flour was 5s a stone, tea 6s and 7s a pound, sugar 10d per pound and all other things in proportion. The distress was so keen and widespread that soup kitchens were opened in several places. I used to fetch it from Tarn House and then from the Shoulder of Mutton public house on New Line. Neighbours of ours, a man and his wife and five little children, were suffering hunger and want; they had nothing eatable in the house. They had applied for relief but for some cause had been refused. Becoming desperate at hearing his children crying from hunger, he went again to ask for something to appease their hunger – the relieving officer lived where the Conservative Club now stands – and took with him a heavy stick and threatened to break every window in the house if relief was not given. The threat was effective and relief granted. Four pounds of flour was our allotted portion for a family of five persons and it had to last us for a week. We had to manage without tea and sugar. “Not much for a family to live on for a week,” you will say. No, but it was all we could do to buy that amount. It will be evident to many persons that we could not live very luxuriously or have many ‘Lord Mayor’s banquets’ out of four pounds of flour. Begging The truth is, my sister and I had to go begging and I am not ashamed to own it. I could never see anything wrong in asking for bread when hungry. I well remember going into the Fox and Hounds public house at Shipley and asking the landlady if she could spare anything for a family in dire need. After considering for a moment she went away and came back with the remains of a leg of mutton, wrapped
in paper. We went nowhere else that day but took it home, had broth made from it and lived sumptuously for two or three days. Talk about hard times, I have gone through them. We have sat down to many a Sunday dinner consisting of old milk, boiled and thickened with a little flour and a bit of bread to it. People were not clothed then as they are now. I went to Sunday school in a ‘harden brat’ and a pair of clogs ironed round the sides of the soles. I was only a boy but a boy can feel the stigma and disgrace attached to such clothing as I had to wear and even when I had grown up, I had to be satisfied with second-hand suits. Halfpenny a day Not many newspapers came into the town, they were too dear. I believe the only one to which the workers had any access was the Leeds Times and cost sixpence. It was read in the barber’s shop on the Saturday and lent out the following week at a halfpenny a day to customers. Cheering news came that peace was proclaimed and the war ended between England and Russia and great was the rejoicing in Baildon. Hopes revived again that better times were in store for them and their children. In those days there was no gas, either in the houses or outside but the inhabitants, to show their gratitude, illuminated the windows and walls with candles. In a few months after peace was proclaimed, things began gradually to mend; food was a little cheaper, work more plentiful, with more money to spend on the necessaries of life. Dangerous travel Baildon has improved wonderfully in some parts; in other parts it remains stationary – Baildon Green, Tong Park and Charlestown still retain their old-time appearance. They have not altered much since I was a boy. Where the houses at Woodbottom are built used to be a dense thick wood. I remember them peeling the bark from the trees, cutting them down and leading them away. The road from Shipley to Baildon before the wood was cut down was very lonely and rather dangerous to travel on dark nights on account of the robberies that often took place.
Lower Baildon has improved in many ways, one reason being its close proximity to Bradford. Arcadia In summer time, when the trees are in full leaf and the gardens in full bloom, it almost looks like a little Arcadia. Another place which has made rapid strides is Westlane. Here a small community has sprung up. I sometimes wonder if the old residents in Baildon ever thought or imagined that Westlane would ever be what it is today or that better-class houses would ever adorn the landscape. There is not much alteration in the Towngate, excepting the new Liberal Club on the old site and the new picture theatre in Northgate. Another improvement and, I think, the best, is the covering over of Kelcliffe Beck and planting its bare sides with trees and shrubs. The open stream and bare sides had long been an eyesore to many people and it reflects great credit on the local authorities for making the transformation. Baildon may have many faults but I love it still. It has an attraction for me far above all other places. Those I have loved and honoured are there, sleeping the sleep that knows no waking and when the call comes to me to slip my moorings and ‘cross the bar,’ I expect to be laid by the side of those I have ‘loved and lost awhile’
Hand woolcombing found employment for many persons. In our chamber we had a comb-pot in the middle of the floor and three jigging posts fixed up by the window and a bed in each corner. It was not what one would call a palatial bedroom but it had one compensation – it was warm and comfortable on winter nights. Hand woolcombing lasted for a time then combing machinery was introduced into the mills and it gradually died out and other employment had to be sought. We had to begin work early in those days. When eight years of age, I went to Baildon Mill, half-time. I worked three weeks for nothing. Then I got a shilling a week as wages. It may be said that that was not much of a wage as wages are now but to me it looked a very large sum. Somehow money had a different value then to what it has today.  Tuppence for me-sen However that may be, I was so pleased at earning my first shilling that when I took it home I said, “I’m bahn ta pay for mi meyt nah, father.” He said, “Oh, ay! What are ta bahn ta pay?” I said: “Tenpence a week, an’ then I s’all hev tuppence for me-sen.” In about twelve months I was risen to one shilling and threepence per week.  I was there three or four years and the largest wages I ever got were two and threepence a week.  Starting work at eight years old Baildon Old Brass Band was considered a very good one by musical critics. They often took part in contests. The most notable was that at St George’s Hall, Bradford, when they played Batley Old Band for £50 a-side. I forget the contest piece but I went to hear them play and heard the judge give his decision for Baildon Band. Dispute I think the dispute between the two bands arose out of the distribution of the prizes at a former contest at Peel Park which culminated in the contest at St George’s Hall. There were many musical families in Baildon, most of them members of the Old Band. Most, if not all, the old player will have gone hence but their mantles have fallen on a younger generation.  Baildon Brass Band win a grudge match Baildon had also a good cricket club and some very good players in it. There was one of exceptional talent who eventually turned out to be a fine county player. I have spent many pleasant hours on Baildon Green when the matches were between clubs near at hand. There was always a little rivalry between Windhill, Saltaire and Baildon Green. At those matches there was generally a good attendance and plenty of noise and cheering. Many county players have taken part in matches on Baildon Green.  Cricket rivalries on Baildon Green Baildon Feast or ‘Tide,’ as it is called by the old residents, was not always as well patronised as it is now. I can recall the time when there was very little difference between the Feast days and ordinary days.  Very little traffic, such as shows, bazaars, aunt sallies and other things. Only two stalls stood in the Towngate. Precarious Tradition has it that the Tide was in such a precarious state that a few natives met together, had a procession, read the burial service over it and committed it to the grave of oblivion with no sure and certain hope of a resurrection. But it rose again, though weak and feeble, and as time passed it became stronger every year. It was the custom when I was a young man and for years after I was married, to provide extra food for the Tide. A larger piece of Baildon Tide beef, a few more puddings and more sweet cakes. When they buried Baildon Tide “Neither the authorities nor the inhabitants troubled themselves about sanitary matters; water ran where it liked and sewage did the same. Drinking water had to be fetched from where we could get it and in very dry seasons, had to be brought from the water works.” Read more about 18 January 1918 Read more about 18 January 1918 Read more about 18 January 1918