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The Ridges Farm. Chirton.


 Bowling green at the bottom of Silkey's Lane.

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The poss stick used to beat the clothes with.

The memoirs of Cissie Ewen


Daily life

Wash day

Most of my childhood, I lived in Silkey's Lane, a one-way street with just a lonnen (walkway) at one end, belonging to the owners of the market gardens. At one time, there used to be a gate across; however, the public were not stopped from walking down. It was a short cut to the gasworks, the timber yard, the shipyard and the Howden Bowling Club, as well as Fagan's and Osborn’s market gardens, which was at the other end of the lonnen. Being a one-way street, it was a good place for kids to play rounders and all sorts of games on the road as well as the pavement. We were told that the street got its name from an event that happened when there was just Chirton Hall and the Estate there. The owner's daughter was supposed to have been murdered by the man she jilted; some people reckoned they had seen her ghost walking with a big collie dog she had, and others said they had heard the rustle of her silk gown and felt her passing them. That's how it got its name.

After the War finished, towards the end of 1918, there was a big 'flu epidemic and people were falling ill in the street; many people died. All our family got it. I remember we were all in bed at the same time with it, except Alby, and he had something wrong with his leg at the time, for he had a crutch to walk around with, and he was looking after us doing what he could.

We had no hot water, just a kitchen sink, and a big copper for heating water and a little boiler, which was part of the coal stove in the kitchen. The water in the copper was heated by a fire underneath, which had to be kept going until the washing was finished; for the water had to be emptied and changed several times. We had only the three rooms and a kitchenette, which was called the scullery and was also the washhouse on wet days. We had a big backyard where Mam had the big old heavy mangle with rollers for wringing out the clothes. It had a big wheel and could be heavy to turn. When we were around, we could help turn the big handle, as we put the clothes through. Mam had a ‘poss tub,’ a barrel like a beer barrel for washing the clothes in. She had a 'poss stick', which she used to beat up and down on the clothes in the hot soapy water; it was very heavy work. The tub then had to be tipped in the back yard to empty out the dirty water. In the winter, it was a cold as well as a hard job. After that, she would start all over again, rinsing and washing until all the clothes were done. Then came the job of trying to get them dry on the clothesline stretched across the back lane, as well as the back yard. Those in the lane had to be taken down each time the coal man or a tradesman came along with his horses and cart and wanted to get past, which some days seemed to be pretty often. When the clothes did not dry outside, we had to string lines across the kitchen and dry them like that; they got in everybody's way.

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