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U3A Writing: Home Sweet Home

...Going for walks up Liley Lane and across the various fields with Grandad as he told me stories of the area, including Shuttle Eye Colliery where he had worked for over 50 years. We collected ladybirds and brought them home in matchboxes...

Hazel Dracup tells of her affection for a Yorkshire mining village.

My parents both served in the Army during the last war. My father's ambition was to join the Metropolitan Police. In 1938, he joined the Coldstream Guards as a stepping stone to entering the police force.

Unfortunately the war broke out, and in 1940 (aged 20) he sustained shrapnel wounds to his left arm at Dunkirk. This put paid to his ambition and any subsequent war service.

My mother was in the ATS and was discharged on her marriage to my father in 1945. They then lived with my father's parents down Almondbury Bank, trying to purchase a house where they could set up home.

They were not able to get a mortgage (or whatever they called it in those days). So when my mother was pregnant with me, they moved in with her parents at Grange Moor as my father's younger brothers were finishing their stints in the army and wanted their rooms back! This was my first home.

When I was about three to four years old, we left Grange Moor to live in our own house (albeit a council one) in a 'prefab' on Fernside Crescent. It had a fridge that went with the property.

I can remember starting my first school at Dalton in the playground at play time, my mother standing at the end of our road waving and me waving back. Where we lived was on a slope and the school looked up to where my mother would stand so she had a good vantage point from there.

We were only there for two-and-a-half years until they started building the new council estate at Dalton. This was another new house, a proper one this time at Brock Bank. It was a novelty at first. We lived there for about eight years.

My mother always wanted to go back to live in Grange Moor, but as it was not possible at the time to get a house there we had to make do. I also would have liked to live there as I spent many happy days in my school holidays with my grandparents.

I was their only grandchild, so I had them to myself. Going for walks up Liley Lane and across the various fields with Grandad as he told me stories of the area, including Shuttle Eye Colliery where he had worked for over 50 years. We collected ladybirds and brought them home in matchboxes.

Grandma would take me on the bus to Dewsbury on market days and we would go round the winding country lanes from Grange Moor through Briestfield. She only went to Huddersfield on rare occasions as most buses in those days did not come into Grange Moor itself. They dropped passengers at the Common End (across from the pit, where the roundabout now stands), and they would have to walk all the way into the village, which was awful in bad weather - I speak from experience there!!

When I was twelve, I went to boarding school "down south", so I was away from home during term time. This was a large manor house with lots of acres, with the newer school buildings within.

When I started, the boys and the girls slept in this manor house in opposite wings. Within eighteen months the new boys' dormitory block was finished and they moved elsewhere within the grounds. This obviously meant that the girls had more space to themselves - fewer beds in each dormitory and one of the larger dormitories being made into a Common Room (with a television)!

One morning, when I was 14 years old, a week before the end of the summer term, I received a letter from home to say that we had been offered a house on Back Lane in Grange Moor, right next door to the farm. I was so excited and couldn't wait till the end of term.

The week after breaking up I was at my grandparents' when we got the key. Grandma and I went down to have a sneak preview before my parents came later that evening after dad finished work.

It was absolutely filthy. (The old lady that lived there had quite a reputation in that respect). I said to Grandma, "I don't want to live in that!", but she said "look at the view. It will be worth it once it has been done up." She was obviously keen to have us all living nearby.

How true, after much hard work and sheer elbow grease, the house was transformed. My bedroom was at the back, and the view from it was wonderful - Liley Lane, across to Whitley, the reservoir and beyond. One could see for miles!

I left Grange Moor on getting married in 1971 when I moved down the road to Lepton. (The reason for choosing this area was because I worked in Wakefield, and I needed it to be on a direct bus route for the times I was without my own transport.) This was to a brand new bungalow, our own house (albeit on a mortgage back then!). We still live there having contemplated moving a few times but eventually going down the route of extending and creating more space that way.

They say, "Home is where the heart is." My links with Grange Moor were severed on Dad's death some years ago. It has changed so much from a small coal mining village where everyone knew each other to a village where there are lots of strangers within.

Where Shuttle Eye once stood is the Bon Marche and other industrial units. New housing has sprung up bringing a completely different character to the village from that of my younger days.

What of today? Well I sometimes drive past my old house to have a 'nosey' around. The village may have changed in character but my memories have not. I still recall the memories of the Grange Moor of my childhood, along with those I have of Lepton where I have been residing for the past 36 years. Of all the places I have lived in, those are the two places I could truly call home.


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