Never Go Back

They do say you should never go back, but sometimes the invitation is irresistible, especially if you’re given the opportunity to re-visit the house where you grew up which you haven’t seen for the best part of 50 years.

So it was today. For reasons I won’t go into, me, my dad and my youngest sister were able to spend half an hour in 211, Astley Street, Dukinfield, empty because it had been recently vacated by the previous tenant. It is the place where my sister was born, where I spent my formative years and my dad’s greatest DIY achievement.

My parents bought the house in 1950 for the princely sum of £400, thanks to a mortgage from the Co-op, dad paying the installments every Friday at the Arcadia in Ashton.

It needed a bit of modernising though. For a start, it didn’t have electricity and my Uncle Jim and another apprentice electrician mate of his wired the house from scratch.

It didn’t have a bathroom either, so dad fitted one above the kitchen. Unfortunately, he had never actually seen such a thing, so he just installed a bath — no lavatory or hand wash basin. It was very spacious though, even if we had to make do with the outside lavvy.

Dad also wanted to let the light in, so he got another mate to make a very solid front door that was mostly glass. The door to the living room also had glass panels and he also put in what was, in effect, an interior window between the lobby and the front room.

Other improvements included a concrete floor in the kitchen, new ceilings upstairs and boxing in all the ugly bits, like water pipes and meters. Oh, and built-in cupboards by the chimney breast, on top of which sat the old valve radio for listening to Workers’ Playtime and Two-way Family Favourites.

And not forgetting the cellar, with its coal hole, that became dad’s workshop.

So what was it like going back? Well the house was smaller than I remembered it, but then I was prepared for that. The sad bit wasn that most of dad’s handwork had gone. And someone had pebble-dashed the rear walls and concreted over the flags in the yard.

One thing that hadn’t changed was the view from the front bedroom window that you can see on the right. The bus stop wasn’t there then, but the Chapel House pub was and I could almost hear again the rowdy noise at chucking out time when I was trying to sleep.

The walls and structure were essentially the same, but it was no longer the place I remembered. The difference between a house and a home, of course, are all the things we take with us, whether it was the clunky, leatherette three-piece suite, my dad’s toolbox or the yellow, black and white coffee set that was only for display in the sideboard cupboard.

We left 1963. Dad would have preferred to stay, but mum insisted that the offer of a spanking new council house was too good to miss and she may have been right, though I doubt our new home will stand the test of time as has 211 Astley Street.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

6 comments… Add yours
  • Jennyta 12th March 2011

    I remember going back to my grandparents’ house in 1970, last chance really as it was then derelict and about to be demolished. It is a strange feeling revisiting somewhere so significant from your past.

    Reply
  • Mr Parrot 12th March 2011

    I would like to re-visit my grandparents’ house which is still there. Like Astley Street, it had an outside loo, but no bathroom. It would be interesting to see what the later owners have done with it.

    Reply
  • Yorkshire Pudding 13th March 2011

    I think your message “never go back” might also appertain to the people we may resurrect from our pasts through, for example – “Friends Reunited”. Let sleeping dogs lie. How did your father react to visiting a place which was haunted with memories of his prime?

    Reply
  • Mr Parrot 14th March 2011

    Dad enjoyed re-visiting the past I think. He talked us through all the various improvements he made which I think he was quite proud of. He was convinced that the kitchen was smaller than it had been, but I think that was more to do with the fitted units which always close a room down.

    Reply
  • Trevor Rowley 4th February 2012

    Astley Street, Dukinfield was my little part of the world, where my family had more than one link with that neighbourhood. My father’s family arrived from Staffordshire in (about) 1912 (economic migrants of a sort, I suppose, as there was only employment in the coal mines in their part of the county and certainly no work for females) to take up residence at 5, Astley Street (always referred to by the family as “up’t steps”). These ancient little cottages, more or less opposite the front door of the Old General public house and handy for the cemetery which was only a cock stride away, were brought down in the 1960s and are now replaced by a row of rather bland “town houses”. Perhaps the only advantage that the new properties have is that they don’t have insanitary cellar dwellings in their basements as the originals had.

    A few years later, having expanded to include five children, the family’s next move was to the very bottom of the street to number 96. A big rambling house with high ceilings, a huge cellar and the sheer afluence (then) of three bedrooms. My memories of this house are of family togetherness, roaring fires in the hearth at Christmas and the fun and laughter generated by family parties (although I have only the vaguest of memories of my elderly grandparents). Other branches of the family were also to be found on the same street and somewhere down in the area that Mr P has described his house as being situated in – however, they had passed away by the time I came into the world.

    My first home was back up at the top end of the street at number 26 (handy for the Newboro’ public house which was more or less opposite our front door) and we had another branch of the family (my father’s brother and family) higher up at number 16.

    All these properties are now long gone so, when I want to go back to my roots, there is hardly anything there to go back for. However, for the time being, the pubs are still standing. Mine’s a pint!!

    Reply
  • Trevor Rowley 14th February 2012

    Looking through some of my family history “stuff” this evening, I came across some notes I had made when I had spoken on the phone to a (second) cousin back in 2006. He was telling me where his grandfather’s grave was located in Dukinfield Cemetery. He then went on to tell me that he (my second cousin) had started life at 209, Astley Street. That rang a little bell so I decided to check out Mr Parrot’s reminiscences and, lo and behold, he had lived, next door, at 211, Astley Street. It’s a small world – or so it would seem. Either that or there just aren’t enough houses to go round.

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