Joan’s Horbury Bridge Connections


The Church of St. John the Evangelist was built at Horbury Bridge in 1884 and is tucked away, together with the school, in the centre of the small community of the Bridge. Work began in 2001 to update the Church into a clean and light multi- purpose building serving the congregations and community. Part of the building is used by St. John’s Junior and Infant School once a week for collective worship. The school also uses the church and hall for drama and choir activities and for special services throughout the year.


One of the most famous past curates of the church is Sabine Baring Gould, who wrote the famous hymn “Onward Christian Soldiers” for the children of Horbury Bridge to sing when they marched up Quarry Hill to St. Peter’s Church on Whitsunday. His processional cross still remains in the vestry and the lovely oak rood screen is dedicated to his memory. The local people were proud that, Baring Gould, a well educated son of a gentleman, fell in love with and married a local mill girl.

S B Gould Marr Cert

The Church has always been firmly rooted within the Anglo Catholic tradition of the Church of England.


(Please click on images & scroll for a better picture)

Horbury Bridge map jpg



Horb Bridge 1

The asterisk to the right of the telegraph pole is to mark the house where I was born (11 King St)

I was born on October 14th 1936, in Horbury Bridge, near Wakefield, so when war was declared against Germany on September 3rd 1939 I was not quite three years old! Obviously I don’t remember hearing it on the ‘wireless’ – we did not have a radio as it is known today but you could listen to programmes on a Wireless Set, which operated from very large ‘accumulator type batteries’ – not at all like the batteries that you use today for your toys! Every week the man who sold these accumulators would come round on his motorbike and sidecar and collect the ‘used accumulators’ and, in exchange, would leave some replacements (I don’t know how much my dad had to pay for them) and take the used ones back to his shop and re-charge them.

My first real memories were of being in a cot or bed in the Isolation Hospital at Addingford in Horbury. I was suffering from Scarlet Fever. I can see’ from my bed in the corner a ‘pot bellied stove’ in the middle of the room and 3 more beds in the other corners. My parents were not allowed into the hospital and had to look at me through the window behind my bed. I had a small doll which was made of some ‘rubbery stuff’ and a little bag but these had to be left behind when I was discharged. (The hospital was later acquired by Slazenger’s Sports Manufacturers (formerly William Sykes) to use as a sports club.

(Norman Ellis “Bygones of Wakefield & District” Vol 2)

Quarry Hill

Quarry Hill is the hill that the children marched up singing ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’

Addingford Hospital was situated just off the right of the photo.

We had an air-raid shelter called an Anderson Shelter at the bottom of the yard (we didn’t have a garden). It was made out of corrugated iron sheeting, which was covered over with grass sods so that it could not be seen from the air. Most of the shelter was underground. Inside were some bunks for the children to sleep on. When the air-raid siren sounded (which was usually during the night) Mum & Dad had to get us out of bed and we all had to go into the shelter. I think some of our neighbours used to come in as well. Eventually the ‘All Clear’ siren would sound and we knew it was safe to go back indoors.

My Playmates at the time

Joan Worth & Joan Brear, on doorstep Horbury Bridge  Joan Worth (me!) and Joan Brear 6. Joan Brear, David Addy & Joan Worth, Horbury Bridge

                                    Joan Brear, David Addy and me

Our house (11 King St.) was the one in the corner behind David’s head. We had a lot of steps up to the back door, as you can see in the first ‘photo

I remember one night the siren sounded and perhaps my Mum & Dad didn’t hear it immediately because we were late getting out of bed and going downstairs. My dad said we would ‘risk it’ and not bother going into the shelter. My younger brother (George) was only a tiny baby and he slept in a large open drawer in the kitchen. The rest of us crouched under the kitchen table! We heard the sound of the bombers overhead and my dad got very upset and thought we would be killed. Fortunately for us the bombs dropped in Thornes in Wakefield and Thornhill (either side of where we lived) and a few people were killed. Ever after that we went into the shelter every time! It is possible that the bombs were intended for the railway and Reid’s Oil Distillery which was just across the road from where we lived. My dad worked there in the office.

Everyone was issued with a ‘Gas Mask’ – a very peculiar looking object, made out of rubber, which smelled awful, and fitted all over the face. I can still remember the smell of it! When I started school, just before I was 5yrs old we had to take our gas masks every day. Regularly a large van would come into the playground. We had to wear our gasmasks and go into the van, where it had been filled up with gas, in order to test our masks.

My dad was an ‘Air-Raid Warden’ and had to take turns with other men to patrol the village streets at night. He had what was called a ‘Stirrup Pump’, a hosepipe which was placed in a bucket of water and could be used to direct water onto a fire when necessary. (He used to clean our bedroom windows with it sometimes).

As quite a lot of our food was imported from overseas, by the Merchant Navy, it soon became scarce. Some of the boats were requisitioned by the Royal Navy to use for transporting troops (soldiers) overseas to various parts of the world. Many of the ships bringing food and other goods, that we did not produce in Great Britain, were sunk and everything was lost. As a result of this the Government decided that Food, Clothing, Petrol (our Oil came from overseas too) etc..would have to be rationed. Every family was given a ration book for each person. Depending on the age of the person they were allocated different amounts of food! Teenagers etc., who were growing fast, would be allowed more than older people. All babies and young children were provided with Orange Juice and Cod Liver Oil from the Child Welfare Clinics. There were no overweight children in those days!

As I was only 3yrs old when the war began I did not know what ‘sweets’ were, so I suppose I did not miss them. When my Mum made a fruit cake, using flour, fat & sugar from our rations, she had to use prunes, which she cut up into very small pieces to ‘pretend’ they were currants – as currants & sultanas (from grapes) used to be imported from abroad (prunes come from plums which do grow in this country). Everyone was encouraged to ‘Dig for Victory’ and have an ‘allotment’. This was a piece of land in a large field, which had been divided up and shared out between the villagers, where you could grow your own fruit & vegetables. My dad had an allotment and I remember the wonderful taste of his home grown new potatoes, straight from the garden, with margarine (which was ‘invented’ during the war to replace butter), from our rations and mint!! – (scrumptious). My dad used to grow lovely big, juicy strawberries, but as the allotment was at the other side of the village from where we lived, they often used to get ‘picked’ by other people! (Nothing changes really!).

(It wasn’t until after the war ended that children of my age saw a banana. The first imports were reserved for us.)

In spite of all the restrictions I think children were mainly happy – unless of course their own fathers were away from home. We did not have televisions & computers to play on, we played outside. There was a very nice ‘Recreation Ground’ or ‘Rec’ as we called it (with a concrete ground) with lots of equipment. This was provided by Robert Reid of Horbury (nicknamed ‘millionaire Reid’) owner of the firm John Reid & Sons, where my Dad was employed for most of his life in the Office.

Reid Park

REID PARK  on St John’s Street

Most of it has now been modified, as it was considered to be a bit dangerous, and the Council would be afraid of being sued if anyone had an accident!!

We had lots of other ‘games’ also, which were seasonal. We had what we called ‘Bowls & Hoops’ – This was a circle of iron and an iron ‘stick with a hook on it’. This was made by the village blacksmith. (The iron ‘hoop’ was about the size of an adults bicycle wheel). The Blacksmith’s shop was just across the road from the school, and we passed it every day. It was wonderful to watch the huge carthorses being shoed. I can still remember the smell when the blacksmith put the shoe into water and it sizzled!) There was both a canal and a river running through Horbury Bridge and, in those days, the canal was very much in use. We used to run down the road (yes, the road – there were very few cars in our village), with the hoop and control it with the iron stick. Then, after we got bored with that, we changed to ‘Whips & Tops’. The tops were made out of wood, pointed at the bottom, and we used to put patterns on the top, using coloured chalks. The whips were made out of wood, with leather thongs. Next came ‘Marbles’ – I am sure the children of today still know what they are? Then there were ‘Conkers’. There were lots of trees in Coxley Valley, in Horbury Bridge, where we collected the ‘Conkers’, We dried them on the kitchen range, before threading them onto bootlaces.

Of course there was always ‘Skipping’. We had a large rope (an old clothes line provided by one of our Mums) and we used to take turns winding the rope and doing the skipping. We had lots of ‘ditties’ that we used to sing when we were doing this such as: “Nebuchadnezzar, the King of the Jews, bought his wife a pair of shoes, when the shoes began to wear, Nebuchadnezzar began to swear – eevery, ivory over (that’s when the person doing the skipping had to run out of the way and the next person ran in without stopping the rope twirling). Today you would not be allowed to use these words for fear of ‘Racial abuse’ but in those days nobody thought anything wrong with it. We also played with balls – throwing two balls (gently) in turn against a wall, singing various ditties. Hide & Seek throughout the village was another pastime. We also played this on the large bails of rags stacked outside the Rag mills in Horbury Bridge. These were right next to the canal and Mums today would be very frightened to let you do this. I remember when the canal froze over and we played on it!!!

We were very fortunate, living near Coxley Valley, a small woodland, with streams, where we fished for ‘tiddlers’, (sticklebacks) and picked bluebells – yes it was allowed in those days.)

Coxley Valley

(Norman Ellis “Bygones of Wakefield & District” Vol 2)

In winter and when the weather was bad we played indoors – card games, Snap, Jiggles (as my Mum called it), Happy Families etc. Also we played Draughts, Ludo & Snakes & Ladders (I didn’t like that one!).

The worst memory of the war was about my older brother Arthur. He was 13 yrs older than me and was ‘called’ up into the army when he was 18, in 1941. He was conscripted into the Royal Engineers, (which seemed to my Dad a bit ridiculous as he worked in an office in civilian life). In early 1943 he was sent to Algiers in North Africa, where he celebrated his 20th birthday on the 8th July.

Arthur in Homeguard.aged 19 jpg

Arthur Worth Jr. in Homeguard

Arthur is on the extreme left of the middle row.

I remember very clearly the day when the telegram arrived saying that Arthur was ‘Missing, presumed dead’ dated 16th July 1943. I was nearly 7 yrs old. My dad never really got over it.

“Arthur had just celebrated his 20th birthday in Algiers where he was stationed with the Royal Engineers. On the 16th of July 1943, Arthur was in Algiers Harbour with 1031 Docks Operating Company, helping to load the Norwegian freighter “Bjorkhaug”, which was one of a convoy of ammunition ships; it was just after the Allied invasion of Sicily so the pressure to load quickly was intense.

Arthur was supervising the loading 38 tons of German anti-tank mines by Arab dockers. Due to a mistake in the rush to load the ship, the ignition mechanisms inside the mines had not been removed and they were live, despite the crew being assured they were safe. 32 tons had already been loaded when there were two huge explosions.

It appears that a load of mines fell out of the cargo-nets into the hold, which triggered the first blast – this in turn setting off the second. The captain, Ole Sandvik, and 9 of his crew were killed, as were between 300 and 1,000 dock-workers, including, sadly, Arthur Worth whose body was never found.

The docks were such a mess that the exact number of dead will probably never be known.”


Arthur’s name is now on a Monument in the Memorial Garden attached to the Recreation Ground in Horbury Bridge and also on the Commonwealth War Graves Monument in Tunisia.

1946 end of war doc

The war in Europe ended in May 1945 but the war with Japan carried on until August. I remember we had a ‘fancy dress’ party and a bonfire to celebrate. Instead of Guy Fawkes there was an effigy of Adolf Hitler on top of the bonfire. I was dressed as a ‘gypsy’.

Joan Brear & Joan Worth in Fancy Dress VE Day 1945

Joan Brear & Me (don’t we look ‘fed up’?!)

Also in 1945 we took part in a ‘re-enactment’ of the Whitsun Walk to Horbury, made famous by the Hymn “Onward Christian Soldiers”, written specially for the “Brigg” children to sing as they walked up Quarry Hill, by Rev. Sabine Baring Gould. We were all dressed in ‘old fashioned clothes’. Below is a picture taken in 1908 showing a previous event. (It is possible that my Dad took part in this one).

Whitsun Walk

(Norman Ellis “Bygones of Wakefield & District” Vol 2)

Post Office

(Norman Ellis “Bygones of Wakefield & District” Vol 2)

The shop on the right of the photo was the Post Office. Next to this is the house that was bought by Rev’d Sabine Baring Gould and turned into ‘The Mission’

A Piano Teacher, (Miss Annie Skinner) lived a few houses from ours in King Street – in the same yard- and I had lessons from her. Occasionally she would bring other pupils to play on our piano before going for exams/competitions etc. so as to get used to different pianos. One of these was a girl from South Ossett called Pat Milner, and we eventually became friends when I moved there.

In September 1946 the Lock Gates on the ‘Cut’ ( the link between the Calder River and the canal) burst open. I was in the school at the time and one of the mothers came running to tell us about it. By that time it was too late and we were flooded. Somebody managed to acquire a boat to put the little children in and I was carried ‘piggy back’ through the water to the ground further up the road to where I lived. We were fortunate that only our cellar was flooded but the homes lower down and the school suffered badly. It was quite some time before the school opened again

Horbury Bridge Flood Sept 20th 1946

 In October my family moved to South Ossett but I carried on attending Horbury Bridge C of E school until the following August, when I left to attend Ossett Grammar School.

Joan P Smith (nee Worth) August 2014

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