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    Straight from the Horse's Mouth

    Churwell’s Cinderella Story

    'For a few weeks I attended the Thornhill Free Church School and that is all the education I ever had in a school.   As far my stepfather had taken little notice of me, but my increasing age I suppose made me more valuable, an on his removal to Churwell, about 3 miles from Leeds on the Morley side, I definitely made my home with him and my mother.  I would then be nearly 7 years of age, and was set to work gathering potatoes after the plough, for which I, or rather my stepfather was paid three shillings.  My stepfather’s attitude to me was always brutal, his one consideration being how he could get the most out of my labours at as little cost to himself as possible.  My food was always scarce and lacking that variety of body building elements so essential to a growing boy.  My clothing was scanty and footware poor.  After a porridge breakfast with little or no milk, I was sent out for the day with a little bread and dripping, which I might eke out with raw turnip purloined from a field, to return in the evening to a scrappy meal of anything left from the table, together with tea, skimmed milk and bread.

     Amongst other odd jobs, following the potato gathering, was the gathering of coal that fell off passing carts.  This was for home use.  My stepfather thrashed me on the smallest provocation, my mother standing helplessly by, but once I remember she lost her temper ad stood between me and the brute.  The Sunday School was my only consolation, for there, besides receiving kinder treatment, I was able to improve my reading.

    How I began I cannot say, but here at the old Wesleyan Chapel at Churwell and later at the Mount Zion Wesleyan Free Church, I learned to read the New Testament rather fluently, though I could read little else, other books not being available.  I fancy my grandfather and an Aunt must have taught me letters, as otherwise I cannot account for my early proficiency with the New Testament.  It  must have been unusual, for at 14 I took charge of a class, and continued as Sunday School teacher till I left Churwell.'

    In our family my siblings and I were very lucky with the opportunities for education and thanks must go to my Dad (if you don’t know by now, Howard) for working so hard to give us the best start in life he could.

    However, like Henry’s stepfather, my Dad recognised the potential of ‘cheap’ labour (not including the food bills mind!) as every child from an early age was made to pull their weight and earn their keep by doing a season on the shows and markets during the school summer holidays. I am sure I drew the short straw as the youngest; I seem to remember doing 4 or 5 seasons back to back as the others always said they had done their turn!

    Wind the Bobbin Up, Wind the Bobbin Up

    'I was born at Thornhill Edge, a mining village about 3 miles from Dewsbury, on May 10th 1846.  My father died soon afterwards, and my mother and I continued to live with my grandfather, in whose house I was born, till she married a miner named      *Henry left this detail out deliberately as you will see .  For a time I continued to live with my grandfather, occasionally visiting my mother and stepfather.  Of our own father, I know little, being too young to understand at first, and later my mothers troubles with her brute of a husband occupied all her time and energies.  My chief recollection of what I was told of my father was that he was a man of some educations, but I know little else.  My grandfather, who was a hand loom weaver of fancy waistcoats was kind to me as far as circumstances would allow, but times were hard then, as I came to find for myself later.

    The first work I ever remember was to wind bobbins.  Once I remember I interfered with his loom and caused such havoc with my childish efforts that it took him two days to repair the damage.   That was when I got my first thrashing, with a green switch cut from a blackcurrant bush.  For my grandfather had a garden for which I was set to work at an early age to gather from the roads cattle and horse droppings in my little barrow made by my grandfather.   I once went 3 miles there and back in my 5th year with this barrow).'


    As a family, we were brought up around the family business. From a young age, we went with Dad 'Howard' to shows and markets, learnt the trade, met new people. It's what we do, know and love (most of the time bar when we missed out on nights out and days kicking a football around the street with mates like Jamie Kilner). Luckily this was all without thrashings - but I was close the day I kicked the football through the window... 

    Nowt compared to winding bobbins but it certainly gave us all an appreciation of hard work ready for adulthood.

    Sprung from Sturdy Yorkshire Stock

    'To what purpose this account of my life will eventually be put I cannot say.  My present purpose is to set down events in order as I remember them, for the benefit of my family, whose present comfortable circumstances might lead them to forget the lowly origin from which they sprang.  They have been spared with vicissitudes (especially of health) through which I have passed, for which I am devoutly thankful, as also I am thankful that they have one and all contributed to their industry in building up a competence which I trust with all my heart will not be dissipated through excess of well being.

    There is nothing in my life, I hope, that will cause them shame, for poverty is no crime, and though their ancestry is obsecure yet the present condition of the family, of which I am extremely proud, in its three generations, proves that it must have sprung from sturdy Yorkshire stock.'

    Henry might be pleased to know that other than my gran Doreen's hearing problems and the occasional fall, the family is fit and well and very close still to their grass roots in Yorkshire.  As for sturdy Yorkshire Stock, he would have enjoyed watching both Joe and I playing rugby - he would see then that we are still very sturdy!


    Introducing Henry Heaton

    Henry Heaton was the father of William Heaton who founded Heatons. 

    Whilst delving through Doreen Heaton's wardrobe one day this summer, we found some family photographs and a first hand account of the life of Henry Heaton between the years of 1846 and 1914 - recorded by the man himself.  She was there by the way, we weren't just rooting through her drawers!

    We are spoilt for choice these days when it comes to accessing information and people's opinions thanks to the internet.  Blogging, social networking, geneology websites and so forth are accessible at the touch of a button and the culture of today's society is to discuss, record and collect and then to discuss it a bit more...  but 150 years ago, this wasn't the case.  How excited were we then to come across this little gem - a first hand account of life in Leeds between 1846 and 1914 by a Heaton. 

    We don't want Henry's story hiding amongst Doreen's undies and furs anymore, so look out for future installments over the next few weeks - straight from the horse's mouth.  The family business that exists today was built on the foundations that he laid all those years ago in the same city... Leeds. 

    Not everyone had the foresight (or education) to write their stories down so thank you Henry Heaton for yours.

    Heaton's History - Introducing Doreen

    Doreen Heaton, October 2011Yesterday we went to see Doreen Heaton, Tim's grandmother, who is on the right here. To be fair, we have both been so busy working on getting the website ready to go, that we hadn't been round to see her in weeks. Note to selves, must find more hours in each day, has anyone worked out how to make that possible yet?

    We were lucky to catch her in the house in fact, as at 86 years old, Doreen is as independent in nature and strong in character now as you can imagine her to have been in her twenties. Regular trips to the shops, games of bridge, lunch and evening appointments with friends and that's all outside of the concert season at Leeds Town Hall where Doreen frequents most weeks.  Not only were we in receipt of sweet tea and biscuits and treated to the electric fire being plugged in, but the trip was fruitful in other ways too.

    Yet again, I got to try on Doreen's fur and wool coats, made in Heaton's of Leeds around 50 years ago. The coats even have her initials hand stitched in the lining! I think my fashion parade must have got her thinking about Heaton's then as she remembered she had some old photos and a written account of Henry Heaton’s life in the bedroom cupboard.  The picture I came across that I fell in love with was the black and white one below. Doreen and her husband Geoffrey Heaton were attending a ball in Leeds and had this picture taken by Bellona Photographers from York. Check out the coat draped over her arm... A Heaton's special no doubt!  One thing is for certain though, she hasn't changed much.

    Most excitingly though is Henry's account of his own life. Look out for instalments coming soon under the title 'Straight from the horse's mouth'.  Make sure you sign up to the blog to follow Henry's account of his own life.

    Doreen with her husband, Geoffrey Heaton, circa 1950