The woods became another of our play areas and we would regularly go there. The Leeds Liverpool canal ran close by to it and as you entered the wood next to the canal, the path went down to the river. However, one day we went to the woods only to discover the descending path had been completely blocked by a thick quagmire of mud and slime, about 4 feet deep. We went back home for shovels and all helped to clear the
There were two quarries at Withnell, one for shale that was used for the brickworks, the other a disused stone quarry nearby. The disused one we called the ‘Moon Country’. We would be taken on walks up there (past what we called the ‘Fairy Stones’) and on the sides of the quarry, which were not very steep, you could collect sand of different colours and keep them in jars. Withnell Brickworks was also the home of a tramp called ‘Paddy’.I don’t know his story or how he became a tramp, but he definitely lived there as once I spotted his clothes and his few belongings above one of the kilns. Incidently, the area above these kilns was really warm and cosy and so in Winter I suppose it was the ideal place to be.When we were not playing out, we were playing inside and as we got older, this meant that we could go in the ‘middle room’ upstairs. This was a bedroom but in effect became a ‘junk’ room and consisted of the following: A stationery desk, a bookcase, a gramaphone player, a drumkit, a photographic enlarger and two printing presses (one an Adana hand press, the other a foot operated treadle) complete with a few cases of type. The drumkit was the first thing we would play on. It was a full kit containing three drums, bass, cymbals and a selection of drumsticks.The printing presses were out-of-bounds. However, the Adana did come in useful and if we asked nicely, my Dad would print cards we could distribute, entitled ‘Mice For Sale’. Yes, one of my brothers would be breeding them and I think we offered a choice of different colours. I seem to remember a white one with red eyes. The gramaphone could only play 78s which we had stacks of. The tunes all seemed the same and very ancient.We had no idea how to use the enlarger. What I played with from this room, for hours on end, was the wooden sticks used for surrounding type in a metal frame for printing. The technical name for these sticks was ‘furniture’ and were mainly of the same length and thickness. Laid end to end, they were ideal for building roads. Or you could make them into a wall, leaving gaps for your toy soldiers so they would have a fortress to fire from.
Above The Lostock Hall steam crane, when it was used to re-rail some wagons
path. It turned out that the mud had come from a British Waterways barge. They had been dredging the canal and had decided to deposit all their muck down into the woods! Stanworth Woods had an unofficial main path running through it. This was leftover from the days of workers using it as a means of travel to Withnell Brickworks, which was situated at the southern end of the woods. Workers from as far away as Mill Hill would walk on the towpath of the canal, cross a bridge near the wood and carry on through and onto the brickworks on a daily basis. We used to go to the brickworks because there was a tip there and sometimes you would find interesting things. One day we went up to find some toys, a lorry and some small matchbox cars. We were overjoyed and could not wait to get back home to play with them, especially as the sky went very dark, started raining and then thundered and lightened all the way back.Withnell Brickworks has long since been demolished and the adjacent clay quarry has been filled in with landfill. In fact it has been filled in that much that an artificial hill has been created where the quarry once was.
Right: The Last Delivery. 3 of the brothers (with 2 friends) on the footplate of the shunter, which was hauling the last train of loaded pulp wagons to Feniscowles goods yard, for the Star Paper Mill in 1968. After the above delivery, all pulp went via road.