Friday, 1 May 2020

Rawcliffe Bridge farms

The weather is cooler and so I am not so keen on gardening. Today is May Day, traditionally a day of fun and celebration but we are still confined in our own homes and so perhaps that will have to wait.

While we are ' locked down' however we can still talk to our friends. In my case some of these friends - are also students in my local history classes.  We normally come up with interesting topics during our meetings but now I keep in touch with them in other ways and and we have been discussing the area around Rawcliffe Bridge.

This was instigated by a picture which appeared on a facebook post, submitted by Roland Chilvers. The picture was captioned Rabbit Hills farm, Rawcliffe Bridge 1929.

Rabbit Hills farm 1929, courtesy of Roland Chilvers

I sent a copy of the picture to my friend Pauline, who was brought up in Rawcliffe Bridge and wondered if she knew anything about the men in the picture and/ or the farm.

Pauline is a very keen and thorough researcher and this set her thinking. The Rabbit Hills area was an ancient piece of land but after World War One the West Riding council bought the Rawcliffe Hall estate  and divided much of it into farms. In 1923 she found an advert asking for potential tenants for several farms, with preference given to ex-service men.

One of these was George Alfred Almond.  He was an ex-serviceman originally from the Swinefleet area and had married the former Emily Drury at Swinefleet in 1921. This fits in with what another lady, Heather posted. She  said that a member of the long-established Sykes  family  of Rawcliffe remembered that George farmed at Rabbit Hills with his wife Emily. They had two children Jim and Mary. Mary married Rex Wood who had Villa Farm in Snaith and Jim worked at Fisons.

Another friend, Steven, asked his father, David Goulden who used to live in Rawcliffe and he too remembered the Almond family.

George we believe later lived at White City on Rawcliffe Road and a family called Lewis took Rabbit Hills.

Pauline also sent me some of her memories of the farms in the 1940s. 

   I spent my junior school years living at Black Drain Head, a cottage and pumping station at the side of the River Don, about halfway between Rawcliffe Bridge and Newbridge.  Our nearest neighbour was Maurice Baldry at Plum Tree Farm. When we arrived he was a single man and Mr and Mrs Thompson lived with him. When we left in 1948, he was married and daughter Barbara had just arrived. Son Colin arrived not long after.

Then, in memory,  off I went down Johnny Moor Long, first Mr Procter, and then Norman Lifesey’s smallholding at the corner of Greenland Lane, the Torn family at Greenland Hall and Philip & Jean Micklethwaite at the Fox & Duck which was also a pub. It now has its original name, Fox Gate Farm. I liked Jean. Before she married, she was a bus conductress on the Majestic buses that ran from Doncaster to Goole. 

The memory can play funny tricks at times because a lot of people remember the Blue Line & green Reliance buses on the same route, but I’ve yet to find someone who remembers the red buses with wooden seats. (sorry – I got side-tracked.)  Greenland Lane ran straight from Johnny Moor Lane back to the river bank and turned just short of Newbridge.  

Close to where the lane now bridges the M18, were the Scrutons and the Fox brothers and a bit further along, the Chafers. I don’t remember the family but son David started Goole Grammar School while I was there.

When I was asked about Rabbit Hills farm I remembered that there was a farm at the back of the Rabbit Hills but I thought it was Langham Farm.  What did I remember?  Leaving Rose Hill & walking towards the railway station, I passed a farm on the left. That was Mr Scawthorne who was also the village milkman until Northern Dairies arrived.  

At the side of the first entrance to the Rabbit Hills was a large house called “North View” and for a short time, about 1946, the Hedges family came home from India to live there. School mistress Mrs Banham sat daughter Elizabeth with me in a double desk.  The entrance to the wood at the side of this house was the only one I ever used which was quite often when a group of small children, after Sunday school, would be searching for treasures to put on the Nature Table in the classroom on Monday morning. 

The other entrance, which is still there, was opposite the two large houses close to the station. Mr and Mrs Rowntree, who were members of our chapel, lived at Woodlands and Mr & Mrs Hargreaves, both teachers at Goole Grammar School, lived at Wynne House. The lane from this entrance leads to Rabbit Hills Farm. Was there a Langham Farm? 

  Looking at local maps, there were two more farms close by: South Farm and Langham Farm. The address for both farms was New Lane. This led from Mill Lane, the short cut from Rawcliffe station to Cowick. The Langham Interchange cut through New Lane but South Farm survived.  So was Langham Farm lost under the motorway? It’s almost half a century since the motorway ploughed through this area and the local people have forgotten what it looked like. Of all my local contacts, only one could remember Rabbit Hills Farm because her Mother worked there for a Mrs J Lewis.
     And there are the Dobeller farms and Pastures farms and Bridge farm, Bankside & Decoy just for starters and no photographs of any of them. I have one photo of Dobella Farm where I was sent to buy fresh eggs.

Pauline and her friend Shirley on the river bank at Black Drain Head

Dobella/ Dobeller Farm
We would be delighted if anyone else has memories or pictures to add to this information or,  of course, corrections.


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