WHEN the monks of Fountains Abbey constructed a Bridge over the River Colne at a place that was then aptly named Colne Bridge they couldn’t for the world have imagined the kind of vehicles of the future that would one day cross the river there.
The bridge was rebuilt in the 17th Century, a time when horses and carts would have been its heaviest traffic.
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To remedy the problems caused by modern day traffic, Kirklees Council has now decided to give the bridge a ‘safety makeover’ following numerous collisions between vehicles and the bridge’s superstructure.
Although many motorists will be frustrated as they queue at the temporary traffic lights, there is one local person who warmly welcomes the alterations.
Doris Broadley, the oldest resident in Colnebridge, said: “It’s about time something was done.”
Doris, 87, has been a resident of the former mill village for more than 65 years and has lost count of the number of times repairs have had to be made to the stonework.
She describes how an endless stream of cars and lorries use the old bridge, en-route to Kirkheaton, Grange Moor and beyond.
Doris said: “It’s all a far cry from when I settled here back in 1946. So many things have changed.
“In those days the roads leading in and out of the village were like rural country lanes with hardly any vehicles at all. Even public transport was non existent.
“If you needed to go into Huddersfield you had to walk to the tram terminus at Bradley.”
Doris can’t remember any accidents on the bridge in her younger days, apart from one which happened around the mid-1960s.
A coal lorry had spun round and demolished the bridge’s parapet, spilling its load into the river below.
The recent dry weather at that time meant that the water level was very low and the local residents had a whale of a time wading out to retrieve bucketloads of abandoned coal.
“But many other things have changed as well,” says Doris. Gone forever is the entire neighbourhood that existed at the foot of Bog Green Lane, including the house where she raised three of her six children.
She has clear memories of the times when the sound of marching clogs filled the air as workers made their way across that old bridge to Harry Mellor’s textile mill.
Doris remembers how the clatter of the spinning frames blended with the tinkling of bottles in the early dawn as the milkman made his way along the ‘Landings.’
That was the name given by locals to a large block of balconied tenement dwellings where she and her husband Frank settled after they married at the end of the Second World War.
She said: “It was a large dreary block of back-to-back houses with one side facing the road and the other side having two levels overlooking the River Colne.”
Frank, who had lived in the Landings from childhood, was accustomed to the kind of privations that existed there. Doris, however, had moved from a larger house in Paddock and was horrified by the condition of her new marital home.
The house, which was rented at two shillings (10p) per week, consisted simply of a living room, an upstairs bedroom and a cellar for the coal.
The rooms were lit by gas which was supplied through a meter and fed by two old pennies (under 1p). It provided for the wall lamps and an old gas stove.
There was no running hot water, bathroom or inside toilet.
Doris said: “We had only two coal fires to heat the entire house – one in the living room and other in the bedroom. But with all the family having to share the bedroom it was unsafe to light a fire in case the flames caught hold of the blankets.”
Washing facilities were limited to a stone sink for pots and clothes and for bathing a tin bath had to be filled with water that had been heated up in a boiler inside what was known as a Range. This was a cast iron stove that surrounded the coal fire.
The toilets were known as ‘bin tubs’ and were housed at the end of the block. There were only seven to provide for the men, women and children who occupied the 15 tenement dwellings.
Doris remembers: “The smell was terrible, especially in summer.”
But if the plight of those in the upper landing was poor, those living below fared much worse.
After heavy rain – or when the snow melted – the river would rise and engulf their houses, leaving whole families stranded in the bedroom until it subsided. When this happened, rodents were frequent visitors which added to their woes.
“People don’t believe what conditions were like but you just got on with it,” said Doris. “One good thing was that everyone helped one other.
“Then there was the corner shop. It was an off-licence come general store, but it was also known as the cal’ing shop because people would sit on the bags of spuds and catch up with the latest gossip from around the village. It was a friendly little place.
“For entertainment there was the old pub called the Spinners Arms (now the Royal and Ancient). It was run by two sisters who would organise an annual village fete with games and competitions such as the sack race and egg and spoon race.
“There were other attractions too, such as Coupland’s Rowing Boats which you could hire out for a leisurely afternoon on the canal and also a recreation ground on Paul Lane which, for some strange reason, was called ‘Snotty Billy’s.”
In the early 1950s Doris and Frank wanted more children and needed a bigger place to live.
Frank, who died in 1980, wanted to stay in the area and they managed to get a house just a short distance up the road.
By comparison it was sheer luxury – warm and spacious.
It was not many years after the couple moved out of the Landings that the block was earmarked for demolition and come the 1960s they were bulldozed along with the two shops, the terrace row and a disused chapel.
All that remains today of that once vibrant neighbourhood are a couple of red brick walls and a forlorn embankment where the dreary old tenements once stood.
A number of articles, maps and photographs are displayed around the walls in the Royal and Ancient.
They take you on a trip back to a time that is beyond living memory to the present residents who live in Colnebridge.
That is, of course, with the exception of one stalwart veteran, Doris Broadley.