Memories Of Furness Vale by Brian Fearon

Monday, 21 June 2010

A letter from Norfolk

I do not know whether this will be of any interest to you but I lived in Furness Vale from about 1947 until 1958 at 268 Buxton Road. I attended regularly at the Methodist Sunday School and for 4  years (1954-1958) delivered newspapers along Buxton Road and up Yeardsley Lane and its branches. Initially from the Post Office managed by John Dean and latterly from a new shop run by, I think, Brian Smedley. Sadly I have no photos but lots of memories which I would be happy to expand upon by email.
I now live in north Norfolk.

Brian Fearon 

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Furness Vale Post Office

I wonder if any will remember me as it is now more than fifty years since I left FV. We'll see....
Going back to the Post Office. Back in the 1950s it operated also as a newsagents. The Post Master, John Dean, was a lovely man and a real larger than life character. He was also, if I remember correctly, secretary to the Methodist Church in the village, and I remember at one Sunday evening service his having to announce that the Methodists had ruled that Premium Bonds were a form of gambling and Methodists should not buy them. He did not seem in the least embarrassed by the fact that he would be selling them the next morning in his Post Office! Sadly I seem to remember that he died rather suddenly after giving up the newsagent side of his business. He had two daughters, Margaret and Barbara I think, who were also regular attenders at the Methodist Church.
I wonder if any remember the greengrocers, Williamson's. They also operated a fish and chip shop at the rear of their premises which opened Fridays and Saturdays and, I think ,Thursday and Tuesday lunchtimes - but I could be wrong about this. Perhaps others will remember.
Brian Fearon

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

From Brian Fearon

Sad to see the Soldier Dick up for sale. Although never a customer (I was just 18 when we left FV) it was a real landmark. We had many visitors from Merseyside while we lived in FV and our instructions to them were to ask for the bus stop before the Soldier Dick (these were the days when few travelled by car!). I remember one aunt causing much merriment on the bus by asking for the stop before the Ginger Dick.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Trains And Shops

I remember Furness Vale station well and we used it regularly for trips to Stockport and Manchester (London Road as it was in those days). We did, of course, have the choice of the North Western bus service as well (number 27 Manchester to Buxton if I remember correctly).
It was a busy station with mainly a passenger service running through it although there were plenty of  freight trains too - all steam hauled of course until about 1957 when the first diesel multiple units were introduced. The passenger trains consisted of three coaches with individual compartments, third class, and great heavy doors with windows opened and closed by means of a leather strap. Until diesels came they were hauled by small tank engines which obviated the need to turn them around at Buxton and Manchester. My main memory of the station, however, is the signal box from which the level crossing gates were operated. There were four gates and as a small boy I used to delight in watching the signalman turning the large wheel which opened and closed the gates.
Of course the line is best remembered for of the heroics of driver John Axon who, in February 1957 remained on the footplate of his runaway steam engine before it crashed into another freight train killing him. Axon was awarded the GC posthumously and was the subject of a famous radio ballad by Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger. Axon came from Stockport, I believe, but his fireman, whose life he saved by instructing to jump from the engine, was a local lad I think. Forgive this nostalgia bit but a few years ago I was standing on Shenfield station in Essex when a Norwich bound train came through hauled by an electric loco named Driver John Axon GC. I was able to relate the above story to my travelling companion, not without some emotion.
The shop I remember best of all was not really a shop, more of a wooden shack. It was almost opposite 268 Buxton Road on the other side of the A6 and was run by a Mrs Sharpley (not sure of the spelling) who lived a few doors along from us. The main trade was bread which was delivered daily by van from the bakers Birkett and Bostock who were based in Stockport. This saved the nearby residents a trip into Furness main village for their daily bread. There was just a single counter inside the shack and, if I remember correctly, there was a limited range of tinned goods and sweets on sale. My mother used to stand in for Mrs Sharpley on occasions as I did once or twice. The shop/shack had limited opening hours - just a few hours each weekday morning. I understand that Mrs Sharpley had a sad end and committed suicide shortly after we left the village. I don't suppose the shack exists any more.
Proceeding into the village from 268 the first commercial premises you came to was a sub branch of the District Bank which had very limited opening hours. Can't remember what they were as did all my banking with the Post Office! Next to the bank was a small grocer's shop which was owned by a man whose name I do not remember. I seldom patronised this shop although I recollect there was a sign out side which advertised that Pearce's Ice Cream was sold there. Into the centre of the village now, and the Post Office was a focal point. However it was not as large as it appears to be today. It was single fronted with the shop area to the left as you entered through the front door. To the right was living accommodation for John Dean and his family. Next door was a shop we just knew as Mrs Hill's. This was another grocery  shop and was dark and, it seemed to me, rather dank inside. Mrs Hill was an elderly lady who, if she wasn't already serving someone else when you entered her shop, emerged from an even darker room at the rear. I hope I am not doing the lady a disservice but I cannot remember her ever smiling and one left the shop feeling that she had done you a favour by serving you.
Along from Mrs Hill's were the premises which Brian Smedley converted into a newsagents in 1957/58 after John Dean gave up that side of his business. It now appears to be a private house. I have no recollection of Schocrofts whatsoever. What did they sell? I just about remember the Co-op on the corner of Yearsdley Lane where I now see there are traffic lights! Williamsons I remember well as we bought much of our green grocery there. The son, David, I knew well as he was very much involved with the Methodist Church.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Furness Vale Methodist Chapel

I have to say that I do not remember the exact roles of people involved with the Methodist Church  but they were all involved in either the Sunday school or the main Church and probably both in most cases. What I can say is that I remember them all warmly.
First of all comes the Minister who was based in new Mills and had more than Furness Vale in his care. Rev Norman Valley was there for a number of years before he moved to the Isle of Wight, I think. He was a small, balding man with a slight lisp and he married late in life. He was very much involved in the Methodist Youth Camps which were held in the summer at Harlech and Tintagel. My brother and I had a number of holidays at each venue. Norman Valley was followed by Rev Ernest Clarke who was much younger - I think it was his first job after ordination. This was about 1957 and I remember some years later seeing a letter from Rev Ernest Clarke in The Guardian; he had apparently moved to Bristol.
Of the lay people, I remember Eric Hankin best. He was the Sunday Superintendent and lived in Parkside Close . A kind, gentle and unassuming man who never lost his temper. He commuted daily by train to the Manchester area although I cannot remember what his job was. He had two children, Sheila and Kenneth. I last saw him in June 1975 when I visited FV and went to the Sunday School anniversary evening service.
Next comes Frank Pearson who lived in Charlesworth Road. He was the only person on my paper round who had Picture Post delivered weekly (funny the things one remembers!). Even quieter than Eric H I remember him fondly as did my parents. He died in about 1956, quite young, and was sadly missed.
Sam Griffin comes next. A tall jolly man with a booming voice. I think he had a son called Stephen but am not sure about this.
Wilf Beard I remember largely because he had a jolly daughter called Marie who was a little older than me. She was always good company on the annual Good Friday rambles from the Church, usually to Edale via Jacobs Ladder, embarked upon after a short service in the church on Good Friday morning.
Wilfred Hartle lived in a bungalow near the top of Yeardsley Lane. A small rather fussy man who could be easily shocked. He had a son called Malcolm, a year or two older than me, who went to New Mills Grammar School (NMGS). Malcolm was very friendly with a Peter Jennison who also lived in Yeardsley Lane but was not involved with the Church.
Next come the Pearsons. There was Bernard, the father, and two adult sons, Derek and Gerald. They did not live in FV but travelled up from the Hazel Grove area and I cannot remember what their connection was with the Church but they were regular attenders. Bernard was a big man and closely resembled Andrew Cruickshank who played Dr Cameron in the Dr Finlay TV series back in the 60s. He was very much involved in the Sunday School and may have been the Superintendent before Eric H.
Almost last but not least comes Bert Heap. He worked for the Calico Printers Association and was, I think, the manager of their Birch Vale mill. A serious and intelligent man who had a deep faith. Rather old fashioned too, as I remember his telling me that if God had meant me to chew gum he would have placed two mill wheels in my mouth! What he would make of modern football managers I shudder to think!
Finally come Bert's son, Brian Heap who must be the most distinguished old boy of the Sunday School. Five years older than me he was in the 6th form at NMGS when I arrived there and from there went to Nottingham University to read zoology. Highly intelligent but rather shy and quite unassuming he is now Sir (Robert) Brian Heap and has a building named after him at Cambridge University.He has an entry in Wikipedia.

Newtown County Primary School

My family, Mother, Father, younger brother Stuart and I moved to Derbyshire from Merseyside in about 1946. The reason was work for my father. He had been invalided out of the army in the early part of the war and found himself without a job when the war finished. Through the good offices of a friend he obtained an interview and then a job with Ferodo at Chapel-en-le-Frith. We first lodged in New Mills with this friend, Doris Law, who was a District Nurse and lived in Jubilee Street at number 9. She had a daughter, Patricia, but had lost her husband who had been in the Royal Navy and was killed in the war. I remember Doris well. She was a kind lady and owned a Morris car, essential for her work.
I had been at school, briefly, on Merseyside but still count Newtown Primary as my first real school. When my parents bought a house in Furness Vale Stuart and I stayed on there rather than transfer to the school in Furness Vale. It was only about a mile from home along the then not busy A6 main road. Good, regular exercise for growing lads! There were just four classes at the school and four teachers. The headmistress was Margaret Nunn who was in charge of the top class. Five year olds were in the class run by Mona Stafford who was a close friend of Miss Nunn. They shared a house just over the border in Cheshire within walking distance from the school. The next class up was run by Marion Johnson, who, I think, lived in Disley. She was much younger person than Misses Nunn and Stafford and left teaching to get married after I progressed to secondary education. The third class was run by a Miss Cooper (I regret I cannot remember her Christian name). Older than Miss Johnson I remember her as an excellent teacher but hot on discipline! I seem to remember that she emigrated to Canada in the early fifties.
There must have been about 110 pupils at the school with just fewer than thirty in each class. Each class had its own room which with a hall between Miss Cooper’s and Miss Nunn’s classes. It was in this hall that we went each week to listen to children’s programmes on a large (probably Bush) radio such as Singing Together with William Appleby and How Things Began (the story of evolution).  I also remember eating school dinners in there for a while of which more anon.


There were two playgrounds at the rear of the school. The right hand one (as you face the school) was for boys and that on the left for girls. Boys were allowed in the girls’ playground but only when we playing rounders under strict supervision of the teachers – about once a week I seem to remember. Each playground had a high wire fence on the wall separating the school from Newtown railway station above which the school was perched. The boys’ playground also housed semi-open air toilets and I guess there was a similar arrangement on the girls’ side but, as any parents reading this will be pleased to know, I never had cause to explore.

School Dinners

I cannot remember whether school dinners were served from the time I started at the school but I do remember that they arrived in large urns (similar to milk urns) and were not particularly appetising. However, sometime before 1950 it was decided that the school should have its own kitchen and that dinners would be provided on the premises. I remember the kitchen being built as an annex at the side of the school so the meals could be served directly into what had been Miss Stafford’s classroom. I had moved on to secondary education by the time the kitchen was up and running although I visited it many times as my mother got the job as cook. This involved her going on a four week residential course at Littleover near Derby. This caused my father no little anxiety as Mum left on a Monday morning and didn’t return home until the Friday afternoon. I well remember Mum’s assistants – a Mrs Clarke who lived close by the school, a Mrs Haythorn who lived, I think, at Low Leighton and Mrs Hill who was  Furness Vale resident. I remember Mrs Hill best. She was a kindly lady and always had a ready smile when I popped into the kitchen.

Food Parcels

A regular highlight each term while was at Newtown was the arrival of a large food parcel from Newtown School in Geelong, Australia. I have no idea how this was first set up but, presumably, just after the end of the war. Each parcel contained about eighty tins of fruit or meat and caused great excitement on arrival. As there were more pupils than tins each tin was numbered and lots were drawn. This was achieved by numbering each tin and producing tickets, each either bearing a number or remaining blank. Those children who were unlucky and drew a blank ticket were guaranteed success in the next draw as it was ensured that they were given a ticket bearing a number. I seem to remember that that tickets were allocated one to each family where brothers and sisters attended the school.

Eleven Plus

In those days secondary education was selective by means of the eleven plus exam, taken in the final year at primary school. As Newtown was just on the right side of the Derbyshire/Cheshire border there were two separate exams – one for those who lived in Derbyshire and a different exam for those who lived in Cheshire. The Derbyshire exam took place at Newtown school but the Cheshire version meant that those who lived in Cheshire has to travel to Disley primary school to take their exam. Successful Derbyshire pupils went to the then New Mills Grammar School while Cheshire successes were given the choice of either New Mils or Macclesfield. The majority chose New Mills as Macclesfield was not easy to travel to from the New Mills and Disley areas.

New Teachers

In my final year at Newtown (1950/51) we had a change of Head Teacher. The Misses Nunn and Stafford retired and went, I believe, to live in North Wales. The new Head was a Donald Bramwell who came from Bakewell. He was a busy man, balding and with a ruddy complexion. I got on well with him, and not just because he was a cricket fan (a few years later I went with him to Chesterfield to watch Derbyshire play the West Indians). Another male teacher arrived, a Mr Dunsford but as he never taught me I remember little about him.


So that was it. In the September of 1951 I moved on to secondary education saying goodbye to the many friends I had made and promising to keep in touch as we went our separate ways. We didn’t of course, except in a few instances, and I now wonder what happened to Leonard Pritchard (he drew wonderful aeroplanes in my autograph book), Terry Ravenscroft, John Gee, Leslie Haughton, Brian Hawthorn and Norma Chandler to name just a few. Happy days at a school which I suspect would get high markings in these days of performance measurement and targets of various kinds.
As a final note I often wonder what happened to the vegetable shop (more of a shack actually) which was situated just outside the school in Buxton Road. It was run and owned by a Ben Garside who always wore a brown overall. I well remember regularly carrying home 6lbs of potatoes after school which my mother had asked me to get as I departed for school in the mornings.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

The Sunday School Anniversaries

Back in the fifties the Methodist Sunday School Anniversary was a high point in the life of the village and seemed to involve most residents even if they were not churchgoers.  The anniversary always took place on the second Sunday in June, whatever the weather, although my by now my rather hazy memory tells me that we were seldom thwarted by rain.

The day started in the church with a short service, probably around 10 a.m. This involved all the children who were members of the Sunday School and all the adults who were Sunday School teachers, usually five or six. After this service we set out to sing hymns around the village. We started across the railway line and the canal and sang outside the houses nestled just below the canal bank. We then went towards, but not as far as, Bridgemont before going up Yeardsley Lane and its offshoots. Finally we walked towards Bank End pausing two or three times to sing outside the houses along Buxton Road. We ended up at a large house above the old quarry at Bank End. This house was owned by the Godbeheres (I think I have the name right) who were generous with their donation. This was, of course, the whole purpose of the exercise, to raise funds for the Sunday School. It was also great fun to sing in the open air and it worked up a healthy appetite for lunch as we all made our way back to our respective homes.

The afternoon brought a service in the church. There was usually a guest minister but the highlight, for members of the Sunday School, was the prize giving. Prizes of books were given for both morning and afternoon attendance at Sunday School so if you were a regular attender of both sessions you got two prizes. I seem to remember collecting a number of ‘Biggles’ books this way. The church was usually packed with children and parents and it quite a joyous occasion. At the finish we all trooped home for tea – no evening dinners in those days – to get ready for the evening service which commenced at 6.30 pm.

Again the church would be packed. From what I remember the service followed the usual form of hymns, bible readings, prayers and a sermon. However we all waited for the announcement of how much money had been raised for the Sunday School. Again, if I remember correctly, the sum was always above £100.00 and was bettered each year, usually by a few pounds. The highlight for me, though,  was the singing, at the end of the service by the Sunday School choir. We always sang the same piece which was called ‘Mizpah’. I cannot remember all the words now but it had a beautiful, haunting tune and ended with the words ‘The children’s day is done, Twill be a memory soon’. I have tried in vain to track down the words and music of this piece, but without success. So, if anyone reading this is able to help pleas get in touch with me through the Historical Society.

So, very much a different age. Looking back it is good to remember how important the children on this day. They played the central role and were encouraged to enjoy themselves.

A Sunday School Hymn

Does anybody remember this hymn which used to close the Sunday School anniversaries. Brian Fearon and his brother Stuart have been trying to recall the words. It was written in the 19th century by  Marian Froelich.

Farewell the children's day must close
The evening shadow longer grows.
Twill be a memory soon.
La da di da
Along life's way
The echoes of another day
Will long refresh our ???,

Farewell. Farewell
God watch between us,
Mizpah our seal and sign
Farewell, Farewell
Till we another year shall meet
God watch between us all.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Milk Deliveries

Brian Fearon continues to write about life in Furness Vale in the 1950's..

Bank End
 Bank End for me started around the corner from Fletcher's farm on the A6 where there was a terraced row in front of the disused quarry. A school friend, Freddie Robinson, lived in the second house and the lovely Preston sisters lived in the first. I remember Fletcher's farm as I went to primary school at Newtown with Gerald, the farmer's son. I also did some potato picking there until it was discovered I suffered from hay fever and couldn't go too near farms!
Milk Deliveries.
When we first moved to Furness in 47/48 our milk was delivered by a Mr Thorpe from a horse and trap. Mr Thorpe was a dumpy little man who wore a brown overall and a battered trilby hat. I mean no disrespect, but he reminded me of character from a Thelwell cartoon.. The milk was carried in the trap in huge urns and was ladled out by Mr Thorpe into pint cans which you left on you front doorstep - one can meant you wanted one pint and two cans two pints.... I seem to remember that the horse was called Bess and I still wonder what happened to her. Around late 1948 or early 1949 Mr Thorpe became motorised with a small van and our milk was then delivered in pint bottles. I was vividly reminded of this last winter when we suffered some dreadful weather. On the Radio 4 PM programme one evening they were reminiscing about the 1947 winter and played a recording from someone in Whaley Bridge who was concerned as to whether the milk would get through! Those were the days....

Brian Fearon