Oral history

We are collecting stories and memories from local residents who remember the site as brickyards and rubbish tip. We are working on a book about the history of St Nicks and will be adding more here in the future. To whet your appetite, here is a poem by Gordon B of Meadlands, Burnholme. If you have any interesting memories of the site from before 2000, please get in touch.

Tang Hall Tip 1939-1947

For me it was the Backfield, also known as the Tip,
A few acres of land where my childhood did skip,
As I remember I had everything a child could need,
An adventure ground where desires could feed.
And what were they in those early days
Just to play all day long in the suns warm rays
The acres were as diverse as any you could find
With treasures enough to fill your mind

The Entry to the Beckfield was from the back garden
The path which led to our Little Eden
A Place where we lay under the clear blue sky
And Watched the Flying Fortresses flying by
There was a war going on of which we weren’t always aware
We didn’t know of the inferno over there
It wasn’t that we didn’t care, more that we didn’t understand
The war to us kids was in a far off foreign land

Beyond the grassy area lay the Derwent Valley Railway
A place we reserved for a special kind of play
We could flatten nails and washers etc. under the wheels of the loco
Or hide uder the bridge for a forbidden smoko
Sometimes we knocked sugar beet off the trucks
Coal was better, but we never got much.

Alongside the lines ran one of the Tang Hall becks
Where we took pot shots at rats, and fished for Sticklebacks
There were bike frames in the beck and bloodsuckers too
The kids who paddled were quite few,
If you followed the train to the end of the line,
You came to what for us, was a veritable gold mine

There was a mountain of old car tyres covering the ground
Car tyres for boolers were in great demand,
They carried more prestige than an old bike wheel,
To acquire one meant  you had to steal,
Some of the lads used to get inside the tyre,
And get booled along through muck and mire
I never tried that, at the risk of beikng called sissy,
The thought of going round and round in a tyre made me dizzy.

To the south of the grassy area and to the left of the lines
Lay the brickyard, unlawful entry punishable by fines
What a magnet those brickyards were to me
With pure soft clay for modelling, and all for free
There were sheer cliffs of clay above deep rectangular pools
Where we went rafting and playing like fools,
Nobody ever got drowned as I recall,
Maybe the fates were being kind to us all,
The brick baking ovens were in large warm sheds,
Where some of the local vagrants made their beds.

They were an odd looking lot wearing odd looking clothes,
Where they originated from nobody seemed to know,
They had odd names too like Map Snowdon and Thrasher Fannon
When Monday and Thursday came you new where they were gannin’
They worked as cattle drovers in the market or cow whoppers to us,
Moving the cattle with a stick and the odd cuss,

Part of the field was where the Gully Suckers tipped
It was the place where we waited fully equipped
With sticks to rake among the muck
Where we found marbles and money, with a bit of luck
Beyond the Brickyard and a little to the right
Was Forts Pond a place of delight,
The edges of the pond were littered with old army trucks,
Which we took too like water to ducks,
We could enact our fantasies and do our bit for the war,

We found field mouse nests under pieces of tin
Such beautiful homes we were privilleged to look in.
We lay on our backs and watched the swallows carve up the sky
Minutes turned into hours watching the birds and the day pass by.
One edge of the field was bordered by a rough dirt road
Along which lorries drove to shed their load
Of concrete, plastic metal and glass
Which quickly succumbed to the creeping grass

High drama erupted some days on the tip
When the gully suckers’ slurry of water etc. and oil,
With the addition of a match, caused it to burn and boil
Huge columns of black smoke rose into the air
There wasn’t a kid to be seen anywhere
I can honestly say I never knew who set the match
But a kind of guilt kept us from going too close to watch

A man trained a horse in a corner of the field
Its high stepping gait was a pleasure to see
The horse trampled the area smooth all around
And fashioned our perfect cricket and football ground

When Winter’s snow and rain flooded the tips
We turned to making model ships with flat wooden hulls
And paper sails, on which we sailed to imagined shores
When it grew dark we shipped our oars
Ah yes, no park was ever laid out better
It suited us kids to the very letter.