Sunday, 2 October 2016

The brick works, a forbidden place and a man called Duffy


It was one of those perfect summer days out beyond Hardy Farm.

The sun was hot and the sky a brilliant blue with just a few light clouds high up and overhead. And we were on a mission.

I forget now what had prompted us to be there and very quickly whatever it was had been  lost in the sheer pleasure of wandering through the long grass with absolutely no one else around.  There was that intense smell of the warm grass, the sound of a bird and away over the Mersey the faint noise of traffic.

We have all done it, and it’s like being seven again and on one of those carefree adventures with nothing to worry about and everything to discover.

Now I have done my own share.  I remember long solitary walks along Derbyshire country lanes and endless treks looking for new strange parks to play in or just taking my 2/6d pocket money to the local railway station and seeing where it would take us.  Sometimes you struck gold and were rewarded with open fields at the end of the line and at others a dingy industrial wasteland hard by a smelly canal.

The best was the walk to Blackheath which led on to the park and the river.  But there were also the bomb sites those lingering ugly reminders of the war we had been lucky enough to miss.  There was no danger there any more although just occasionally you might come across some hidden treasure which had somehow worked its way back to the surface.

David O’Reilly who grew up on Chorlton has similar fond memories.  In his case it was “the Clay Pits” which was
situated to the immediate east of Longford Park, just the other side of the interrupted Rye Bank Road - it was a series of mounds and gulleys, the left over from previous workings of the old brick works factory with its tall chimney.  

It was a forbidden play place and it was guarded by an almost mythical man named "Duffy"! With another 9 year old boy, I recall daring ourselves to go into this derelict building one day and even crawling under the tunnel - through rubble to a place where I could look up inside the chimney and see the small hole of daylight at the top. 

On re emerging we continued to play until - that knowledge of being watched - made its presence felt - and we looked around to see a man who I think was called Duffy staring at us, stood on a small wall about 12 yards away. Scared witless we fled the scene, and although not chased, the memory of Duffy, the clay pits, and the old building, has played a part in several nightmares since that day!”

I have to say that when I first came across the brick works I was surprised.

But the clay and marl around the Longford Road area has been used for centuries.

The marl was used for spreading on the land while the clay became the bricks of some of our older houses .*

The pits are there on the OS map of the area for 1841 and carry names like Marl Pits and Brick Kiln Pits.  And as late the 1920s and 30’s the water filled pits proved a fatal place for some of our children.

But I want to end on a lighter note.  David and I may have been aware of the dangers in where we played but it didn’t stop us. In those long ago days parental supervision was perhaps  lighter and there may have been far more open spaces to while away the long hot summers.

Location; Chorlton, Manchester

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

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