Reading this William Woodruff biog, has got me thinking of my own past. So I have decided to try and write about my earliest memories (see what I did with the title … Memories … Elaine Paige ??). I don’t know where I am going with this yet, but I will start with the house.
Number 15 Hill Top Mount, Leeds 8. No fancy postcodes in those days. Just a house number, a street name and a district number. It was just off Shepherds Lane, at the back of the Constitutional Club on Roundhay Road.
I’ll take you in. It’s funny, but I don’t remember going in through he front door much. Anyway, to the right of where the gate used to be, (pinched by ‘chumpers’ years before1) was the ‘privet’. A large hedge that hid the bay window at the front of the house. I don’t remember the front door really (this is going to be good, I think I’ve forgotten more than I can remember), although there was a small window above the door. I remember getting in that way one day, but I don’t know why.
Through the door and you entered the hall. About 10 maybe 12 feet down the hall, on the right hand side was the door to the ‘front room’, to which we may return later (depends how this goes). Next to that were the steps (only posh people called them ‘stairs’ in those days). In front of you then was the door to the kitchen.
As you went through this door, the first thing you noticed was , opposite you, was the back door. I never remember this door ever being shut !!! Even in winter, the door was always ajar.We now turn right. On the right hand side was the kitchen table and chairs. I think the table had a yellow Formica surface, with four chairs that had seats that matched the table. Just past that was the entrance to the cellars (no door here). At the end of the room, next to the cellar steps was a cupboard, that I think had all the ‘dry goods’. Next to this was the range. It was black. Painted I think, probably with black lead paint. We did not cook on this range, but the fire was always lit. This was where the water was heated in what was called ‘a back boiler’. To the left of this, in the corner was a large stone sink. I think there was a crockery cupboard above this. Along the back wall, was the kitchen window, and a large wooden work surface, where everything was done. I seem to remember this had drawers, where we kept things.
As I said, we did not cook on the range …… we had a gas cooker, at the top of the cellar steps. Literally at the top of the the steps. Mum used to stand on the top step to cook, with a 10/12 step staircase behind her. It would not be allowed to happen these days. Health and Safety would have had a fit. But in those days, there was no H & S telling you what was safe and what was not. You took care, or you got hurt .. end of story.
The kitchen always seemed to be huge. I remember that there was not a lot of other furniture in the room, except for a wicker nursing chair, and a paraffin heater.
Enough for now ……
1 NB for those who do not know, ‘chumpers’ were people that went ‘chumping’. That is, people who went pinching anything that was burnable, to put on the bonfire on bonfire night.