Waterside 3

Two Weeks in Waterside

by Laura Storey


Let’s transport ourselves back exactly 65 years to the scorching summer of 1959. At that time, sixteen-year-old Geoff Crambie was relishing the sunshine, spending his days fishing in the almost dried-up Foulridge Reservoir while also earning his keep as a grocer’s boy at the Co-operative Supermarket.


16 year-old Geoff with his ‘catch-of-the-day’

Having commenced his job a year earlier at the tender age of fifteen, Geoff was already a seasoned worker by the summer of ’59. He found himself shuttling across Colne to serve at 26 different branches, but it was the two weeks spent at the shop in Waterside that he’d never forget.

“Waterside is a part of Colne that’s altered completely,” Geoff reflects. “Around 400 people used to inhabit that corner of Colne.”

“A gas streetlamp outside the shop would flicker to life precisely at 7pm – a signal that it was time to head home.”

The bustling community harboured one of Colne’s oldest co-ops. “The store was a relic, opening its doors back in 1870,” Geoff recalls. “It was so ancient that it still relied on gas lamps for illumination. Just around the bend from the shop was Gas Street, where Colne’s inaugural gas terminal stood. A gas streetlamp outside the shop would flicker to life precisely at 7 pm – a signal that it was time to head home.”

“Three generations frequented the shop, and, as refrigeration was not yet commonplace, people came in every day. Everyone knew each other. It’s the only shop where the manager was addressed by his first name. It was such a nice atmosphere.”

Arthur Hamlett, the manager, had dedicated 45 years to the Waterside Co-op, kickstarting his journey as a grocer’s assistant with Shepherd’s on Market Street, Colne. “He started work at 14.”

On Geoff’s first day, he found himself donning brown overalls instead of the customary white, tasked with weighing up produce. The job entailed lugging hefty brown sacks brimming with potatoes around the premises. The strenuous labour, compounded by the sweltering heat, left him parched.

Fortunately, lunchtime beckoned, and the ingenious manager, Arthur Hamlett, proposed a solution – a quick visit to the pub for a pint.

The Old Duke Pub

They ventured to the Old Duke next door. “Originally, it was the Old Duke William; it opened in 1709.”

At sixteen, Geoff was served a shandy while Arthur indulged in a pint of bitter.

Between serving patrons in the shop and enjoying the pub, those two weeks saw Geoff assimilate into the thriving waterside community.

A notable figure in Waterside was Colne’s Mayor at the time, Tom Hargreaves, fondly dubbed “Tommy Ottermuck.” The moniker possibly traces back to his father’s capture of an otter on Colne Beck, but the specifics have been lost to history, much like the elusive whereabouts of the second mayoral lamp.

The Mayor of Colne, Tommy ‘Ottermuck’ Hargreaves with the two Mayoral lamps

“From 1894 to 1974, a pair of mayoral lamps adorned the residences of every mayor,” Geoff explains. One now occupies Colne Library, while the other has vanished into obscurity.

Besides the Old Duke, The Admiral Lord Rodney stood as another historic watering hole catering to the Waterside populace. Still operational today, the Lord Rodney witnessed numerous community affairs.

In the 1950s, proprietors Alan and Vera Barrett decided to revive the Wapping Pash tradition.

“…they heated coins in a pan over the hearth and tossed them to the awaiting crowd of children below…”

“Wapping denotes Waterside,” Geoff explains, “while Pash signifies passion. Initially, it was a religious festivity spanning four days. Vera and Alan resurrected it after 50 years.”

Admiral Lord Rodney proprietors Alan and Vera Barret with the Wapping Pash Pie

“They baked an enormous potato pie for all attendees. Following an ancient custom, they went to the upper windows, heated coins in a pan over the hearth and tossed them to the awaiting crowd of children below. The children had to catch them, but of course, they were red hot!”

This wasn’t the only traditional affair in Waterside. While youngsters might have scorched their palms grasping for coins, a more harrowing spectacle had unfolded a century earlier.

“In 1812, the Old Duke William hosted England’s final bull-baiting event. It drew a crowd of 800 to witness the bulls fight on the green between the Old Duke and the Admiral Lord Rodney.”

Post-bull-baiting era, locals still revelled in entertainment via travelling fairs, which came each summer to Waterside.

“They were spectacular,” Geoff reminisces, “with swing boats, merry-go-rounds, and lots of clowns!” Alongside the carnival rides and performers, these fairs often boasted exotic animals. “We even had zebras strolling down Colne Lane!”

In 1900, a fair arrived featuring a bear, with a sovereign prize earmarked for anyone capable of wrestling the creature to the ground.

“Titch grappled with the bear for twenty-five minutes before finally managing to wrestle it to the ground!”

“A chap named Robert Marco decided to take a crack at it,” Geoff says, “Standing at 6’3”, he was dubbed Titch! He served as the bag carrier for Colne Cricket Club.”

The ‘Fair Bear’ of 1900

“No one had achieved it before. Titch grappled with the bear for twenty-five minutes before finally managing to wrestle it to the ground!”

“I knew his granddaughter, Lily, and he lived off that tale for the rest of his life. Whenever he went to the pub, they’d say, ‘Hey Titch, come have a pint and tell us about the bear.’ How many people can boast: ‘My grandad wrestled a bear’!”

Just a few years following Geoff’s unforgettable fortnight, the Waterside Co-op shuttered its doors, and the 1960s ushered in a wave of demolitions to the district, which had already sustained partial obliteration in the 1930s.

The Old Duke, where Geoff savoured his midday shandies, was torn down. Naturally, he hastened to inspect what remnants could be salvaged. “The pub has a beautiful front door, but by the time I got there, it had been smashed to pieces. I managed to get just a small piece of glass from the panelling—it must be 200 years old!”

Geoff displaying a piece of glass from the door of the Old Duke Pub

While nature now reclaims much of what were once bustling streets, Geoff still remembers the community that once made their home there. “I have such happy memories,” he beams.

Read Geoff’s previous piece on the travelling troupes that came to Colne here.

NorthernLife June/July/Aug 24