Stairfoot and Ardsley
The communities of Stairfoot and Ardsley in the 1950s were served with a variety of local industries comprising of, glass, coal, brick manufacture, tar distillation,clothing manufacture and engineering offering regular and secure employment. The diverse number of shops in Stairfoot provided the communities with their everyday needs, along with doctor and dentist surgeries.Educational requirements for its young population was catered with schools in Stairfoot and Ardsley at infant, junior, and senior levels. Regular bus and railway services were available through Stairfoot and Ardsley.
The following are the personal memories of Michael Mollart growing up in Stairfoot in the 1950s.
Stairfoot and Ardsley were thriving communities, I lived at No 22 Wombwell lane , opposite Stairfoot railway station, between the Black Bull pub and the Keel Inn [ now the only remaining pub in Stairfoot], adjacent to the station was the Cross Keys pub. The industries in and around Stairfoot were the glassworks of Tomlinsons on Wombwell Lane,Beatson Clark off Hoyle Mill Road/ Oaks lane,and Wood Brothers at nearby Hoyle Mill, with Redfearn Glass having two factories at Old Mill Barnsley and Monk Bretton, the Yorkshire Tar Distillers, known as Yotar situated across from Wombwell lane separated by the road and the railway. Access to the works was via a road off Doncaster road after the traffic lights before Ardsley Hill, the smell from the chemicals produced were rather pungent, hanging out the washing depended on the wind blowing in the right direction ie away from our house. You didn’t need mothballs for your clothes, no self- respecting moth could live with that smell. Further on Wombwell lane was the brickworks with the adjacent quarries, one filled with water which provided us with swimming facilities during the summer months, our other alternative was the canal. Across from the brickworks was Basforth’s garage. Barnsley Main Colliery was situated nearby with access being gained either from Hoyle Mill Road/ Oaks lane, and the lane known as Pit lane off Doncaster Road at Kendray Hill. Sugdens clothing factory which made trousers was situated on Stanley Road. Brittons Engineering Company was on Grange Lane later being occupied by the Standard Piston Ring Company.
Stairfoot was a busy railway centre , the station was well used for the Barnsley- Doncaster passenger service, along with a significant amount of freight traffic mainly coal being moved from the local collieries to the marshalling yards at Wath and Carlton. Stairfoot had a number of sidings for marshalling the wagons. The tar distillery, the brickworks, Beatson Clark and Barnsley Main also had rail access from Stairfoot. My Dad was a signalman at Stairfoot Junction box adjacent to the station, I used to go and see him regularly when he was working. I used to stand on the station footbridge when the trains were passing underneath, leaving me with a blackened face which got me in trouble back home. There was a small signalbox on Wombwell Lane named Stairfoot No2 which controlled trains shunting in the busy yard. The signalbox was operated by a lady called Mavis Allan. The former Midland Railway through Cudworth built a diversionary line to Sheffield which went over Sunny Bank viaduct, through Ardsley Tunnel over Stairfoot via a brick viaduct, bridging Doncaster Road, the railway through Stairfoot, Wombwell lane the Dearne and Dove canal connecting with the Barnsley- Sheffield line at Monkspring Junction, Swaithe. It was a busy freight and passenger line , the highlight of the day was the Thames- Clyde express which passed at about 3-20pm , we used to wait for it to see if it was a namer. The viaduct had a series of arches supported by wooden beams, the viaduct passed near to the houses on Oxford Street and Sykes Street. Pigeons used to nest underneath the arches and the trains passing overhead never seemed to bother them Just across the road on Wombwell Lane from Tomlinsons glassworks was Sharlands wagon repairs site, behind the Black Bull pub was Hoppy Green’s scrapyard which backed onto Bridge and Sykes Streets. Other scrapyards I remember were Whites and Thorntons.
Shops on Wombwell Lane near to where I lived were Mrs Hughes’s at the bottom of Sykes Street and across the road Lowery’s both shops having bus stops either side of the shops. Going up Bull Hill, Oxley’s fish and chip shop on the right, over Bull Hill bridge which carried Doncaster Road over the canal on the left Curly Burton’s fish and chip shop, who later moved to new premises just passed the Post Office, next to Curly Burton’s was a barbers , I think it was Cliff Bents. Across the road was Potts Bakery, Booths Butchers, Ardsley WMC known as the Low Club, along with a chemist’s and Creighton’s dentist at the junction with Gordon Street.
The traffic lights at Stairfoot were notorious for accidents especially in winter, when traffic turning onto Wombwell Lane had to be extra careful. Carrying on up Stairfoot on Doncaster Road, the Globe Tea Company , Post Office, two further butchers Hudsons at the junction with Hunningley Lane and Walkerdines on the opposite site of the road. A doctors surgery now a care home was situated across from Hudsons at the Doncaster Road / Hunningley Lane Junction. Further shops I remember carrying on Doncaster Road was the Coop, Bellamys fruit and veg shop another barbers, at the junction with Hoyle Mill Road was Ardsley Conservative Club [still open today], Joey Stephenson’s bicycle repair shop which also sold paraffin and charged batteries for wirelesses, the Ashfield WMC, J C Snells garage and another doctors surgery before the railway bridge carrying the Barnsley-Sheffield line over Doncaster Road.
On Grange Lane towards Cundy Cross was Harry Hamer’s shop adjacent to Bank Street, the allotments on the left, Brittons Engineering Company later to become The Standard Piston Ring Company and just before the bridge carrying the freight line to Grimethorpe and Houghton Main collieries was the infamous gypsy camp we called ‘Butlins’. Going back onto Wombwell Lane, during the summer holidays there was the Stairfoot Feast which set up on spare ground between the Keel Inn and Tomlinsons glassworks. Where Tesco’s supermarket is situated, the land was owned by Squire Micklewaite along with land now where Dunhelm and the other shops are situated. These areas of land were prior to the shop development , football fields and Barnsley Rugby Club’s ground. Heading back to Stairfoot on Wombwell Lane is Deputy Row these houses in the 1950s still had Midden toilets that had to be emptied weekly.
Schools in Stairfoot were situated a] on Doncaster Road across from the Hunningley Lane junction [now demolished and as been made into a recreational area] b] on Hunningley Lane [ also demolished and now a housing development] and c] the new junior school still in use today opening in 1951 and now also accommodates the nursery and infants. Going up Ardsley Hill near the police house [ now demolished] was the infant, junior, and senior schools. The infant and junior schools are still in use being renamed ‘ Oakhill’ The senior school was closed and a new school was built off Cypress Road, Kendray being named ‘Oaks County Secondary Modern opening around 1957/1958. This school no longer exists, the site being occupied by industrial/ business premises, a health centre and housing. A new school ‘Barnsley Academy’ at Bank End and some of the land at Kendray playing fields, replacing the Oaks and White Cross schools.
Returning back to Ardsley I remember the welfare with the swings, the bowling green and tennis courts.the village and the church.