Text of the Guided Naughton Walk
A Walk Through ‘Bill Naughton’s Homeland’
The walk takes in the area where Bill Naughton’s family settled in 1914, around the junctions of Cannon Street and High Street with Derby Street. The starting point is outside McDonalds at the foot of Derby Street across the green from the University. There is always traffic here so each stop requires some sort of removal away from Derby Street itself to reduce the noise.
Start at McDonald’s at the junction of Derby Street (BL3 6HH), University Way and Fletcher Street.
BN lived here from 1914 till 1930, and elsewhere in Bolton till 1940.
Ken Beevers, former Bolton Librarian: ‘Bill Wrote about Bolton with affection, humour and sensitivity – for in any town it is the people who matter most. Bolton people thought there was nowhere like Bolton because despite the grime and the chimneys and constant noise it had everything. Bill wrote about the enforced togetherness of family life and felt it an obligation to write about working class life accurately – he said every account of working class life he had read was a travesty. In his writing his claim to know every sett and stone, step and wall in the streets around where he lived is probably true’. And of course 'Bolton spun the finest yarn in the world!'
Bill Naughton lived in Daubhill, at the height of Derby Street - a mile from town, but close enough to Hulton Park for miners to live in the area as well as spinners and weavers. Derby Street had several mills nearby (Flash Street, Mather Street Mill, Haslam Mill, Eagle Mill, Moor Mill, Derby Street Mill and Swan Lane Mill just down the road, the biggest in the world at one time). There was a steel works at the foot of Derby Street and a forge where the Mill View Rest Home is now, a ropewalk farther up.
Look behind you because here was a horse trough – water to prepare dray horses for the long pull up to the top of the hill. Back in front of KFC stood Magee’s The Good Samaritan, David McGee’s first pub and the site of an occupation in 1970, when students from BIHE, demanded it be used as the Students Union Bar – the authorities not having provided one!
Walk up Derby Street and stop at Rothwell Street. a busy thoroughfare, tram service between town and Four Lanes Ends. There were seven classes of shops in the 1920s when Bill was growing up, less in evidence now:
Grocers. Each small set of streets had its own grocer. There were 144 Co-op outlets in 1940s and independents, like The Maypole Dairy at no 106 was where Edward, Bill Naughton’s brother worked in the early 1920s one of 8 outlets in Bolton.
Confectioners sold cakes and sweets – women had little time for baking.
Cloggers. Clogs worn by workers into the 30s and 40s. Needed clog irons changing every six weeks or so. 70 or 80 in Bolton around 1900 through shin kicking had died out. There is a clogger in Harwood, Foxy, fancy clogs only.
Tripe shops. Tripe, cowheel, offal of all types was cheap and popular. Voses, with twenty outlets in Bolton was the major supplier, but there were over 50 trips shops in Bolton at the time. In 1920 Voses and others were amalgamated to form UCP. The last one was opposite the Starkey Arms on Tonge Moor Road closed in 1981.
Temperance Bars - Drinnan’s was at 162, then farther up the road one of four temperance bars on Derby St.
Men’s barbers. Men went for a shave to the barbers. Hairdressers were also men’s clubs’. Rainworth’s was a hairdresser and ‘furniture dealer’ – Bill called him a rag and bone man. (women had long hair which was ‘undressed’ so fewer women’s hairdressers. With the Great War, demands of industrial work made short haircuts fashionable, particularly ‘bobs’. Then the permanent wave of the early 1930s saw the spread of women’s hairdressers. Rational clothing led to corsets going which had pushed breasts upwards, was an opportunity for the stand-alone brassiere to become popular).
- Fried fish shops. There may be as many ‘takeaways’ here as there were fried fish shops then. There at least four up the short half mile we intend to walk and over 300 fried fish dealers in Bolton in the 1920s. Close by Unsworth Street on Birkdale Street was Thomas Bibby’s chip shop – the best chippy in the world!
Walk up to Cricket Street.Here, at Cricket Street, was the Crown Brewery, so called because it was next to the Crown pub. The Brewery was built in 1880s and run by the Magee’s from 1853 and 1970 when it was bought out by Greenhall-Whitley’s. Magee’s had water transported from Burton to make their beer and claim it was a ‘Burton Ale’.Magee’s was a good employer - sports facilities, annual trips out, dances, picnics, welfare departments, on site nurses. During the miner’s strikes of the ‘20s Magees offered soup and other comforts to miner’s families (as did the co-op). Bill Naughton comments that there was no chance of a job there because they were handed down father to son.The Spinning firm Tootalls’ was the same and people thought the same of getting a job with the council or with the co-op – security, pension, standing.
This being the case families attempted to make sure their sons, daughters and other relatives had first dibs at any jobs available. Nepotism maybe, but this was generally accepted. Many organisations operated on the same basis –
The secretary of the Poor Law until 1929 Henry Isherwood Cooper ‘inherited’ his job from his father in 1901,
James Billington the hangman passed on that work to his three sons…
closer to home, Bill’s first job at Kershaw’s Weaving shed was got for him by his sister May.
Tom, his father got a job at Brackley colliery encouraged by his brother-in-law, Willy Fleming.
Bill’s brother Jim got a job at Dobson and Barlow’s through his brother-in-law Bill Bromilow, sister May’s husband.
Bill himself later in life got his first occasional day’s work at the coal depot through his father-in-law, James Wilcock.
- Move up to Haslam Street. Down here was Haslam Mill. The Haslams were Unitarians, great philanthropists and very rich. They owned five companies and after the Great War, advised that cotton trade would collapse they sold up in 1921 – for £2.5 million! At the same time spinners were earning about two pounds a week. Before the Great War the street was called German Street, but its name was changed in 1917.
- Walk across Derby Street to Cannon Street (BL3 5L J) – there is a car park here to stand in. The housing in 1914 when Bill Naughton’s family arrived was small two up two down rows of terraces, with a front and back kitchen and two upstairs bedrooms. A small back yard had a privy and an ashpit. By 1910 the collection of night soil each week from the privy was being replaced by tippler toilets (explain). But weekly collections from the ashpits still occurred. Principally for ash from fires ashpits were also used as dustbins – attracting rats aplenty. Before talking about Unsworth Street, where Bill Naughton was brought up look around here. On this corner, where there is a supermarket now, was the Ram’s Head pub, a RAOB centre. Bill had a pal here called Frank Barrow, although he was a bit posh. Up the road at the next junction was the Pike View Tavern.
Willie Fleming came to Bolton before the Naughtons. He was Bill’s mum’s brother and a favourite uncle of Bill’s. He seems to have encouraged Tom to get a job at the pit. He lived in Chequerbent (Atherton) but came across to the Naughton’s house every Saturday for the drinking. Old Tom was a bit uneasy with him – was he jealous of Willy’s relationship with Maria? The tale was that at the time of the Pretoria Pit disaster Willie had been stuck in a cage for hours, which had unnerved him. In 1921 during the painful miners lock out he had had some sort of breakdown and came to live here at Unsworth Street. There into June he got better, but one day gave Marie several share certificates. At the end of June he was in the Ram’s Head and met a pal, Paddy Conboy. Over the course of about half an hour there was a ridiculous stand off about who should buy the drinks – and the pub closed before they agreed. Willie went home and some time later he smashed a picture frame in his bedroom and cut his throat. Bill recalls the noise in the house and as he was ushered out to stay with neighbours saw the stricken uncle Willy bleeding and prostrate. Willy died and poor Paddy Conboy was stricken with remorse that he did not let Willy buy him a drink.
Maria carried the Catholic embarrassment of a suicide in the family for years. And when Bill, at the age of fourteen, was offered the chance of taking a scholarship exam for St Bede’s grammar school, Maria’s response was that although it might be nice for Bill to be a priest it probably was not possible because of the family history of suicide – so he did not sit the exam.
Tom used to drink in the Pike View Tavern as well and one day around 1920 he bought a pawn ticket, a regular feature of exchange when people were short of money. The ticket bought him a fine fob and watch which he wore with pride until the 1926 strike, when, up against it, he pawned the watch and sold the pawn ticket in the same pub.
- Walk down Cannon Street a little way noting the junction with Peace Street. One of the notable features of Bolton and other northern industrial towns is the vast change in the landscape over the last fifty years. Whole areas have been uprooted and in many places, like Church Wharf and the foot of Folds Road, around the university and here at the top of Derby Street, School Hill, Brownlow Fold it is difficult to place where the old streets were. The destruction of the local geography contributed to the destruction of the culture. Unsworth Street was demolished in 1976. Back Unsworth Street still exists and Birkdale Gardens is where Unsworth Street was.
- Maria Fleming had emigrated to America as a young woman but after six years had returned to Ballyhaunis, Mayo. She married Tom Naughton, a railway plate layer and with her American savings bought a shop. Tom was more interested in drinking porter in the shop than running it and it was no success. Tom came over here, got a job at Brackley pit and sent for the family once he had secured a house. They left two older children, Peg and Sal, with aunts so Edward, May and Bill (4) came with them. James was born later.
- 32 houses there – respectable working class, though Marie had to rely on the pawn shop almost every week. Street buzzed rent collectors, tallymen, organ grinders, ice cream carts, debt collectors. Round the corner was Nancy’s grocer and beer seller, where Bill was sent for a jug of ale on Saturday Night for his dad and cousins. And Bibby’s chip shop was also in Birkdale Street, packed of a Friday lunchtime, payday, selling the best fish and chips in the world!
- But what a shock for Bill – the haze, the constant flecks of ash in the air, the hooters, the clumping of clogs, the sheer number of people around, the tippler toilet with its sinister hole and unpredictable flushing – surely better to just go in the fields as he had been used to? But as the war ended in 1918 and the return of the old traditions, such as the boys dressing up for Maypole dancing, Rose Queen parades, Bill began to love the place.
- Unsworth Street according to Bill was a middling sort of working class street – clean, happy and lots of streetlife. Maybank Street, though, was posher as spinners and overlookers lived there. More money but duller with little street life. However just round the corner in Gibbon Street or Isabel Street they were not as houseproud – steps might not be donkeystoned and it was said that the houses had bugs!
- Stand at the entrance to Birkdale Gardens to discuss ‘Big Corner’. Big Corner was important to Bill – where young men gathered, from the age of 12 upwards including young men in their twenties. Pubs then were not young men’s haunts and though there were temperance bars, the forerunner of coffee bars of the 1950s, who had the money to go there? Big Corner was ‘craic’, the place for boasting and tall stories and where the ideas for many short stories and characters came. Jud Burns, the Arpino brothers, ‘Spadger’, ‘Spit Nolan’ and ‘Nelson the Dog’
Joney’s story about his bike ride
‘catching the dragonfly’
- Walk a few yards down Cannon Street and turn right into Thomas Street with Derby Mill looming above you. When Bill left school he had no ambition about what type of job – except wanting to work outside. He hated the idea of working in a ‘dirty snuffy’ (spinning mill), or the pit (put off by his dad), and took an age finding a job (two weeks!) and was taken on at Kershaw’s weaving shed, (which was here) to be trained as a ‘loom fettler’ or ‘tackler’. But first he had to work as a weaver to find out about the work. Bill hated it – the catarrh, his clothes specked with cotton, the noise, surrounded by women, but most of all he hated the isolation. But Kershaws were good to him – they let him sit an exam for an office job, but he said he was so nervous his hand shook and he failed. For a glimpse of his feelings read ‘Weaver’s Knot’, in the ‘Late on Watling Street’ collection of short stories. Note the ‘Tivoli’, Derby Street Picture House This was run by Major ‘Tutty’ Booth, who knew his regulars so well that he would not allow his projectionist to start until they were all in place.
- Walk down Weber Drive, then Kershaw Street and turn right into Emblem Street back towards the junction with Derby Street. Note: Sam Yick’s laundry 210 Derby Road. Here tell story or two from Bill’s recollection of his childhood .
- ‘eating the pears’ – which were for father’s shift at the pit, so he could get some liquid down him in the dust. Bill’s guilt about this and his worry one day, when he did not kiss his father before a shift, that his father would die and it would be his fault for not kissing him.
- ‘changing the gas mantle’,
- ‘feeling up clothes’.
Cross the road and walk down Derby Street and turn right into Rothwell Street.
- There was a branch of Boots the Chemist in Rothwell Street. Here it was that Bill as a boy saw a diary for sale, which he wanted. He watched the supply dwindle and disappear in the new year. He never got one but the tale is told as an indication that he wanted to write from a young age. But there is no other evidence for this. Turn left into Houghton Street and stop at the junction with Shaw Street.
- At 17 Shaw Street lived the Donkey Stone manufacturing Sharples Family.
- Mother Maria was devout and kept the peace between Tom and the rest – he was a grumpy man. Prayer was her constant companion. Bill followed her example of devotion and decided to be a saint. She visited the Shaw Street dicing club. The club mixed the idea of regular saving with the chance of winning a jackpot. The woman who ran it managed to take something like 15% of the takings from the club. You might give a shilling, sixpence would be ‘saved’ and sixpence would be subject to a draw, or dicing. So if there were twenty women that would mean 10 shillings in the pot. But the winner would only draw seven shillings, the dice queen taking three shillings.
- Gambling was illegal,except at race courses, but it was not seen as immoral. Ken Higson, ten years younger than Bill, from a staunch Anglican family, yet his father was involved in running a book (i.e. taking bets). Bill ran a book with a pal for a while at Kershaws. (as am aside, street football was was also illegal and police took kids to court for it…)
- Stop at Pilkington Street (BL3 6HP) where the school stands and tell stories from school – Bill went to SS Peter and Paul’s Elementary School in Pilkington Street. When he was 13 he had prayed that he would be made slightly ill so he could go to the sanatorium at Southport for a couple of weeks. God did not oblige him and Bill felt let down so decided that from then on his life should be dedicated to pleasure only; toffee and fudge at the weekend, sitting in the front row of the Grand Theatre and looking up the skirts of the dancing girls, ogling the rounded rump of the lady who donkey stoned the doctors front step. At Elementary Schools until 1920 Children left school at 13 (some having done the last year as ‘half timers’. This was abolished then and the school leaving age was raised to 14). By Bill’s time children of working people were at Elementary School between 7 and 14.
- Miss Rose Conway – he loved and met later on in adult life after she wrote to him asking if the author Bill Naughton was ‘her Billy’
- Miss Veronica Brown
- Fat Ada, Miss Alice Newsham
- Walk down Houghton Street into Fletcher Street turning left past the House of Raja and into Edgar Street, back onto Derby Street. Stop outside Aldi (BL3 6DH). Explain this whole area. Outside here was a stable, close by the goods yard, until late 1930s horses and carts delivered goods round town. Looking back towards Bolton One would have been Flash Street Mill, over to where the fire station and bus station is was the Bessemer steel works, the Sainsbury’s car park was where Hick Hargreaves was, Decathlon and behind was Crook Street Sidings and Crook Street Station and coal wharves. Back to 1925. Having reached the age of 15 and a quarter Bill left Kershaw’s and applied to the Royal Navy. The recruiting office was in Moncrieff Street. He failed the medical. He had burned his bridges for the first time and had no job! But he soon found one at Ainsworth Mercerising Company
- Back of beyond - the trams in Bolton. ‘T’ Tong Moor, ‘D’ Dunscar, ‘O’ Chorley Old Road, ‘N’ Chorley New Road, ‘F’ Four Lane Ends…
- Tom Holt’s sister…Tom Holt’s hand and ‘Yab’ Lomax’s Car
- The stables used by the co-op horses that Bill was be involved with from 1930 was on Lark Street which was a continuation of St Georges Road round about where the A666 ends.
- You can see Trinity Street Station from here – the corner of Sainsbury’s car park.
Nan fell pregnant in late December 1929. She either did not know or did not tell him till late March. They ran away to Liverpool, all they could afford. Quote from ZN and Roof. They married in Liverpool and then slunk back to Bolton to live with Nan’s parents in Rawsthorne street. This is the scene at the beginning of The Family Way. After Marie’s birth in September 1930 they moved to a couple of other small dingy places. He was unemployed and they were dirt poor. Larry was born in May 1932.
- Walk back past Costa to the foot of Derby Street to Bolton One (BL3 5BN) Because Joe Wilcock worked as a coal porter he encouraged Bill to stand at the co-op coal depot at the start of the day and see if there was a day’s work to be got. This he did outside Crook Street Station, more or less right here! He got a day’s work in (either November ’30 or ’31 – I suspect ’31), the another then more and by early 1934 he had a full time job. Woody, his pal taught him to drive and in 1936 Bill was in full time pensionable employment by the co-op driving a coal lorry – and had been allocated a brand new council house on Johnson Fold Dormitory Village. The children were thriving, so here we have the happy ending to a family story. But there is an alternative ending to this tale – one that involves great wealth, an academy award nomination, betrayal and a broken marriage. Do you want to hear it?
Walk back to the University, coffee shop or Costa…to tell the rest of the story which does not take place in Bolton.
- Nan, a bad manager and not much in common with Bill – the debt discovered.
- MO explanation: detail of his volunteering.
- The affair; evidence from Dennis Chapman and Geoffrey Taylor, his niece and his son
- War coming and being a Conscientious Objector…
- Leading to the sack in June and his seeking work outside Bolton – to get away or to follow Gertrud? He followed her to Manchester then London
- Gets driving job with civil defence and although they never live together they are a ‘couple’
- Gerti has her first baby with Bill, Barney, born at 53 St John’s Road Newbury in October 1941. She is living with her Vienna friends Marcel and Ankie Wiesselberg – social democrats, theosophists, sophisticated middle Europeans. Bill send Marie and Larry there to live
- Bill’s first story in the London Evening News in 1943 Ghost Driver is asked for more and then writes regularly for the Evening News, Lilliput Magazine and others.
- The war ends and Bill keeps writing, living on and off at the Wiessenberg’s huge new House Inhurst Farm with all sorts of refugees from Europe; writers academics, revolutionaries, survivors from Austria, Holland and France. Gerti’s second son by Bill (Michael) is born in 1948, but then she decides to go home and takes the boys with her.
- A young au pair at Inhurst Farm catches Bill’s eye – Ernestina Pirolt, aged twenty. He takes up with her after a while and divorces Nan in 1950. He married Erna in 1952.
- They live in London until 1968 then move to the Isle of Man. He visited Bolton very occasionally but had loads of old friends visit him.