Looking Back – a Crich childhood 1910–1925

This reflective article was written by Mrs Vera JULIAN (née STOCKS) who was born 9 August 1910.
With thanks to Sheila GOODHEAD
[Names have been capitalised for ease of reference]

When I was a child I lived with my parents, brother and sister in Chapel Lane Crich. Our neighbour was Mr ALLEN who was the foreman in Crich Quarry (where the trams are now) next to him lived one of his daughters, son-in-law and five daughters. There were quite a number of children of the families who lived in the Lane. We all agreed fairly well. We had lovely times playing together on the hills under the Tors. We used to play shop, have concerts and dress up. I remember dressing up once in yards of old lace curtains and I had a crown of daisy chains on my head. Lovely purple heather used to grow on the hills. I once found a small root of white heather but I kept it a secret as soon as it was in bloom. I used to pick it. The little railway was running then, from Crich Quarry to the Lime Works at Ambergate (where the Gas Works stands now). The engine, named Dowie, pulled 12 open wooden wagons that used to be piled up with broken pieces of limestone from the quarry. The railway passed at the back of Chapel Lane on its way down. At the quarry they had a coal wharf and coal was sold to the Quarry workmen, some of them lived around Chapel Lane.The coal was weighed out at the wharf, put into bags, labelled and put into an empty wagon and brought down near Chapel Lane at night after working hours about twice a week. The wagon used to stand there and the workmen who had ordered the coal used to go and collect with their wheel barrows. As soon as the wagon was empty, we used to wait awhile, then all the children, (me included) used to sneak up to the wagon, some of us used to get in others used to push it, we used to ride up and down on it in turns. Mr ALLEN who I mentioned earlier you to have his tea and have a nap when he got home from work, but when he woke up and heard the wagon going up and down he used to come up and make us all get off, and he didn’t half grumble at us, but I think he feared for our safety as he was very kind and used to do lots of things for us. Most of the children called him Granddad. I remember him standing hours turning our skipping rope for us with one end tied to the yard gate and him holding the other end. We used to get our ropes from LESTER’s. Mr and Mrs LESTER served in their shop then. The rope was plattered it came off orange boxes and it was very strong and cheap. Mr ALLEN had a little spare bedroom which was empty. As Christmas time drew near, my parents and the other parents in the lane began buying toys, games and sweets etc and they all landed up in Mr ALLEN’s spare room which he guarded like grim death. There was quite an assortment, dolls and prams, wheelbarrows etc. There was a right sort out on Christmas Eve. After Christmas had passed we looked forward to Pancake day, after we had eaten our pancakes we used to play with shuttlecocks and bats and whips and tops. After a year or two had passed I didn’t play quite as much. I used to help my mother more and on Saturdays I used to take someone’s baby out and run errands. Mr ALLEN eventually retired from the Quarry. He used to go to Blackpool for a weeks holiday in the summer and he always used to bring a stick of rock back for each child in the lane. I remember once when he’d been away he bought back with him 14 yo-yos, one each for us. He told us that when he asked for them in a toy shop at Blackpool the young male assistant asked him if he was having him on. Mr ALLEN replied, no I’m not, just you wait until you are a Grandad to 14. We used to like eating rock and ice cream too. The ice cream man used to come up the lane at the weekend in his pony and cart, and we used to get cornets. I used to ask my mother for an extra penny to buy one for our cat Tibby. It used to sit on my knee and lick the cornet, we used to have lots of fun with it. But I think the most fun we had was on Carnival Day. Crich used to have an annual Carnival. What a day that used to be. Crich Silver Prize Band used to play followed by the Carnival King and Queen, lots of people in fancy dress, decorated drays, prams and bicycles. What a parade it was through Crich and Fritchley Green then back up again to Mr Thomas SEAL’s field on the Common (where the Spring Factory is now) for the judging and the rest of the day. Most of the children in the lane dressed up everybody helped. I remember making lots of fancy dresses. I used to dress up too. I once went as a cotton picker. I had a black face and I had a big round earrings dangling down and a large red handkerchief knotted on top of my head. I won first prize so it was worth blocking my face for. Years went by, I left school and started work at Lea Mills. When I was nearly 20 I met a very nice young man we started courting and then we married when I was 24. We got a little cottage in Chapel Lane, only three doors away from my parents and we lived there about three years. Then my father had three houses built at the top of Sandy Lane so we left Chapel Lane and went to live there. Sometimes I think and look back with gratitude and thankfulness to God for having wonderful parents, a good home and a happy and carefree childhood.

Vera STOCKS married Joseph Cecil REEVES ( Bowmer Rough FARM) in 1935. After Joseph’s death, in 1944, she married Bernard JULIAN in 1946. Bernard was a widower – he had married Elizabeth SMITH in 1924.