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History and Recollections

Janet Dandy
Published in 1985 By Carnegie Press Copyright © Janet Dandy
Reproduced for reference only

Life at the beginning of the 20th Century

My childhood was spent in the first decade of the 20th century; and how relaxing and carefree those years were. The whole world seemed to be our playground; we played among the haycocks at haytime and around the corn sheaves at harvest; we roamed the fields and hedgerows looking for birds' nests; we made daisy chains for coronets and plaited rushes for belts and whips. No one stopped us from going in the fields - the only person we feared was the gamekeeper with his black dog, who was afraid we might disturb the pheasants and partridges.

The roads were singularly free of traffic; only a horse-drawn vehicle or an occasional cyclist passed by. So we used the road as our playground. Boys played marbles in the gutters and girls played hopscotch in the road or trundled hoops along.

Most houses had large gardens with fruit trees, so we climbed the branches or made a swing by tying a rope to a stout branch. Often children were given a plot of land in the orchard to cultivate and grow flowers.

Under the trees in summer we played 'shop', using seeds or nuts for groceries and bits of broken crockery for money. A piece of china with gold markings on it was valuable - in our eyes it was a gold sovereign.

Sometimes we ventured to the 'marl hole', a large excavation from which clay had been dug for handmade bricks. Here we made clay pies and got thoroughly muddy. In those days girls wore pinafores and I remember coming home from the marl hole one sunny afternoon, everything looking clean and shiny except my friends and myself. Our pinafores were plastered with clay and our hands and faces streaked as well. For the first time I realised how muddy we were and felt ashamed at having to walk through the village in that dirty state

At the farm we enjoyed looking for eggs in the Dutch barn; the hens roamed free and nested in the hay or in the hedge. At night the hens flew up into the apple trees and roosted there, as there was very few poultry cabins.

Just one of the lovely old cottages in Tarleton which are still standing today.


To water cattle and horses we drew water from the pump in the farm yard. Before water could be drawn, we had to ladle some from the trough at the base of the pump and pour it into the pump from the top.

Great excitement arose when a man with a dancing bear came to the village. A crowd of children gathered to watch the shabby bear shuffle around in a circle. Occasionally a circus would pass through on its way from Southport to Preston. Elephants and camels were led by keepers, but the lions and tigers were driven in large wagons, though we could imagine them lying on the straw covered floors. These were the days of the German Bands. When I was at school in Southport our lessons were disturbed each Thursday morning by one such band playing in the street. Also we were visited by the organ grinder with his barrel organ and a little monkey sitting on the organ doing a few tricks. I'm afraid the men did not get rich with the few coppers we could give them.

In winter and on rainy days we played 'Jacks' on the stone flagged floor of the kitchen. For the game we needed a large marble and four square jacks (shaped like large dice)/ The jacks were placed on the floor to form a square, the marble was bounced on the flags and we had to pick up the jack before the marble bounced a second time. The game progressed by picking up two jacks on one bounce, then three and then four. The friction of picking up the jacks from the stone floor rubbed down our finger nails.


This recently converted barn lies at the corner of Gorse Lane and Carr Lane. It shows how much can be done to preserve old buildings while giving them a new use.


In the early part of the century, women wore long skirts almost touching the ground. To prevent the hem of the skirt being rubbed away, the hem was strengthened by 'brush braid', a kind of fringe braid. We loved to dress up in these long skirts with feathered hats and parade the upstairs landing, imagining we were very grand ladies.

In the evenings we played dominoes, ludo, snakes and ladders, and cat's cradle with a piece of string, making various patterns on our fingers. My father entertained us by making shadows on the wall, using his fingers and hands to make the shapes of birds and animals.


This farmhouse has recently been renovated. There used to be a barn behind, but this was pulled down some years ago. A long time ago, the main building was a pub.


On Christmas Eve we hung up our stockings near the kitchen grate and great was the thrill of waking up in the early hours to find that Father Christmas had been and left us an orange, an apple, two pink sugar mice and another small gift in each stocking.

Not many Christmas cards were sent, but we had lots of visitors calling to wish us the season's greetings, and each was given a glass of wine and a mince pie.

Shrove Tuesday was Pancake Day

and housewives would make lots of pancakes; any villager could call and partake of the feast. Young men and boys who did not eat all the pancakes offered to them would be put in a wheelbarrow and tipped onto the midden.

On Good Friday some poor children would go round the farms 'pace egging'. 'Please a pace egg' was a cry and, as eggs were cheap, there was seldom a refusal. In the spring when eggs were plentiful, hundreds were collected by school children for use in Southport Infirmary.

All children were expected to do a little work such as cleaning steel knives and forks with emery paper or brickdust, collecting sticks for making the fire and getting coal in ready for the morning. We cleaned our own shoes or clogs; if an iron was missing from a clog we visited the clogger in his little wooden shop. There he was sitting, in front of a bench with nails of all sizes on it. When putting on the iron he popped several nails between his teeth, ready for hammering them into the wooden sole.


A very early photo of John Wilson's smithy which was shut down around 1912. This smithy worked mainly on the building and repair of agricultural machinery.


Few children received pocket money but when we got a penny or halfpenny we spent it on toffees - aniseed balls (eight for a penny), bull's eyes, peppermints, liquorice ribbons (four for a penny) or kali suckers. But we enjoyed plenty of fruit, as we grew gooseberries, blackcurrants, raspberries, apples and pears. As the apple and pear trees were big and the fruit high on the branches, we knocked the apples off with a long clothes prop. Oranges and bananas were purchased from a greengrocers' cart which came from Burscough each Thursday.


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