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A Shout From The Attic: Toffee And Fudge

...Grandma Lina Willis Bray, the girl from Scarborough, lived in a cellar there at some time and made toffee and fudge that she sold to keep body and soul together in the bad years when Grandfather Oliver Bray was not behaving himself in a civilised and domesticated way...

Ronnie Bray continues to delineate the people and places that marked out the boundaries of his childhood in a Yorkshire mill town.

For more episodes in Ronnie's life please click on A Shout From The Attic in the menu on this page

Bradford Road went out on the bottom of town through old Northgate, across the road from the wastelands where the slums of Castlegate had been cleared about the time that I first breathed in the smoke-laden atmosphere of Industrial Huddersfield. My father’s family had history in Castlegate. Grandma Lina Willis Bray, the girl from Scarborough, lived in a cellar there at some time and made toffee and fudge that she sold to keep body and soul together in the bad years when Grandfather Oliver Bray was not behaving himself in a civilised and domesticated way. Chris and Russ Morris’ grandma, Alice Peate, who came from that neighbourhood, said it was the best toffee she ever tasted.

I did not cross over the road to the Castlegate side until I had passed under the railway viaduct that straddled the road just before the beginning of Alder Street. After that point, I could go all the way to Fartown Bar before running out of safe territory.

Leeds Road was quite another matter. Proceeding as far as the Sea Scouts building, in what is now Old Leeds Road, was far enough until I met Alfie Cleaving’s stepson, Eric Hindle, who lived on St Andrew’s Road, and he introduced me to Gasworks Street a little farther on. Gasworks Street, you may be surprised to learn, was so called because it dissected the town’s gasworks into the proximal and nether regions in the days when town gas could kill you by inhalation. Apart from that, Leeds Road was off limits and only the most daring, of which band I was not, ventured into that kind of territory.

The bottom end of Huddersfield carries the canal and the River Colne and has few crossing places, so it became a natural terminus for delinquent wanderers such as I. Even so, except when there was a bustling and noisy fair on the fairground at the side of the tram sheds on Great Northern Street, it was well, it seemed, not to venture that far ‘south,’ but to keep on the top side of Bradford Road

In between Leeds Road and Wakefield Road ran Quay Street; a short road paved with narrow cobbles that led to the dread region of Turnbridge, named for the archaic bridge that straddled the Liverpool Leeds Canal at that point. The bridge is a substantial steel-bound wooden cradle bridge that is hoisted in the air by means of chains that wound around capstains housed inside two huge upright cast iron cylinders that resemble steam boilers. The mechanism is activated by a hand-wheel to raise, then lower the bridge after the barges have passed on their way into or out of the Aspley Canal Basin, which is the dockland of Huddersfield. In former times, the canal traffic was commercial freight. Now it is adventurers and weekend sailors in small motorised craft and increasingly popular narrow boats.

Today, no horses walk the towpaths pulling their loads from here and there. Narrow boats went to engines a long time since and the clip clop of the horse is replaced by the steady mechanical clunking of the inboard single cylinder diesel that doesn’t get tired or have to stop for a fill-up of oats and water. They are interesting to watch and you are guaranteed a return wave from a bargee and his crew.

I got as far as the other side of the fifteen-foot long bridge once and even dabbed a scruffy shoe toe onto the Turnbridge cobbles before resuming a safe position on the Town side of the bridge. No small boy – or large one for that matter – could pass the big hand-wheel without putting a turn on it. Many have had motor cars honk at them to let the bridge drop so that spoked-wheel cars did not have to risk terrible damage by running into the foot high roadway that suddenly appeared in front of them. Now the wheel is fastened with a chain of nautical dimensions and a padlock that would outwit Houdini. Motor cars hitting the bridge at high speed from the Turnbridge side still take off some feet onto the air. The landings can be instructive and painful.

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