Friday, January 17, 2014

GUEST POST Memories of Snailbeach in the 1950s

Christina Samson has kindly sent me her recollections of life in this village in Shropshire's lead-mining country more than 50 years ago.

This is an area for which I have a very deep affection having spent many extremely happy holidays with my Mum's cousin and family, who lived at 14 Snailbeach.

When I first visited around 1956, the cottage didn't have running water and the loo was located outside the house and up a steep little bank. It was an Elsan. My Aunty (although technically my second cousin) claimed the view from the loo took in several counties!

Our water was collected by turning right out of the front door, down the steep path, crossing the lane up to Lordshill and into the cottage opposite's garden where there was a well. The water was very soft and I remember frogs in the well which Aunty said kept it pure.

Ablutions were carried out in the bedroom from an ( even then) old fashioned ceramic jug and bowl. Baths from a tin bath. Rainwater was collected in an old wooden barrel. This was used for hair washing and it beat any modern conditioner. Very happy times.

Saturday mornings we took the elderly Minsterley Motors bus into "town" (Shrewsbury) and back in time for lunch. It sometimes seemed that we would never make the hill from Plox Green as the little old bus chugged and wheezed its way up. But I was always glad to get back to the cottage.

I can never remember feeling bored whilst there and apart from the odd visit to Mollie Wardman's funny little shop, didn't spend a ha'penny. I made friends with the local kids and we roamed the Stiperstones, playing and 'wimberrying'. Aunty Jo would make a pie. The white hillocks presented endless scope for playing. Can't have been very healthy when you think about it!

We once attended a service at Lordshill Chapel. I remember we walked up in procession at Eastertime. It was lit with oil lamps and the service was interminable. The minister gave a sermon denouncing just about everything that would make life worth living. Eventually we were given a really nice tea.

My Aunty's adult children also lived at Snailbeach. I remember velvet black darkness walking up after visiting Jackie and Mollie. No lighting at all. The clear night skies were wonderful to star gaze.We often stood and watched for shooting stars. And saw plenty.


Pauline Fisk said...

I knew Snailbeach well in the 1970s and 80s, though I never lived there. Lord's Hill Chapel remained fairly unchanged. I too remember hanging lamps. Connie, the organist, lived in the attached cottage [the minister's house, if I remember rightly, in Mary Webb's 'Gone to Earth] along with her alsatian dog. Several times she invited my family, including five young children, up for supper and an evening of scrabble. I wrote about the Stiperstones in my own novel, Midnight Blue, in particular the legend of Wild Edric. People up there told me that they heard him riding past in the dark of night. Who am I to argue about that?

Anonymous said...

I lived in Snailbeach from Christmas 1940 until 1945.
My paternal grandmother was a Blakemore ,but she had left the family home in Maddox Coppice
by 1896 as she married in Manchester in that year.
Her siblings were William,John,David, Alfred and Annie ( who married Tom Oldfield and was mother to Ruth and David .)
They lived in a house in Maddox Coppice near the Smelthouse and Prospect House .

My sister and I were taken to Snailbeach after a very heavy air raid in Manchester at Christmas
I lived at first with Gertie and David Oldfield but when they went to Crows Nest I joined my sister Pauline at Windsor cottage with Auntie Annie Oldfield ,Uncle Tom and Uncle Alfred Blakemore .
Later after Auntie Annie Oldfield became very ill we went to other people,Pauline to Dorothy Preece and I to Bert and Esmer Davies at 23 Snailbeach , where Ruth their daughter who only recently died ,also lived.

I had a wonderful time,very happy and settled.
Playing all over the works ,in the buildings and using the white lead waste to make mud pies.!
We were free, unsupervised ,yet we came to no harm.

Starting school ,with Ruth and Mary Davies taking me the first day ,in Mrs,Jones infants class.

Getting icy cold lovely water from The Scott level just below the road.
Milk from Eunice’s and Mr Hewit’s ,near the old crane and weigh bridge

Swain’s bus ,struggling up the steep road from Plox Green in Saturdays after the journey from Shrewsbury.

We went to Sunday School at The Methodist Chapel morning and afternoon ,also
Chapel afternoon and evenings.
The anniversaries were something to look forward to .

Such happy carefree days ,it always seemed to be sunny and always something to do.
I draw on those good memories very often , with immense gratitude .
Marcia Fletcher.

Anonymous said...

I also remember the little shop on Shop Lane ,The Davies brothers and sister Emily.
They had lots of containers on the shelves fir different coffees and teas ,sometimes sweets .
The little steep path that passed their rose garden ,such perfume ,we girls used to take the overblown ones to make perfume in a jam jar ,nice the first day but not the second!
You could get to Molly Wardman’s down that path.
The P.O. was there for a time and the telephone kiosk.
.i remember Harold Bishton using the run off from the level ,diverting some and making a water garden in Gwen and Happy’s garden .
If a Summer evening men just standing ,chatting and enjoying the wonderful view whilst leaning on a very substantial hedge just where the top line emerged from the bushes and ran behind 23 Snailbeach to the shed at the top of Clink.
How many times did we children change the points with the lever just by the derelict bridge over to the black hillock!
What an interesting and exciting playground ,dangerous yes,but I think it made us very self governing ,we had choices and luckily took the right ones .
No clocks ,our appetites drive us hime.
There was one clock over the mine office but always the same time on that.
Wonder when it stopped.
We ate such diverse things,blackberries, wild raspberries ,whinberries, hazel nuts , sucked the tiny sip of honey from wild honeysuckle ,wood sorrel leaves that were so sour !
What happy days .
Marcia Fletcher.

Jonathan Calder said...

Thanks so much for sharing these memories, Marcia.