Highfields

Highfields Memories by Eric Higton.

In some respects, travelling in the 1920’s was easier and much more relaxed than it is today, although in the cold weather it was imperative to wear warm clothing, especially for local travel, which was by tram-car. There was no alternative service. Tram-cars were totally inheated. The driver was less fortunate than his passengers where Doncaster vehicles were involved, because there was nothing between him and the elements other than his clothing. Not even a windscreen.

The tramway which served Highfields and Woodlands began outside the Electra Cinema, which was situated on the west side of Frenchgate, a site once occupied by C&A in the in the Frenchgate Centre. Proceeding over the north bridge and the original narrow bridge over the River Don – on a small island beside which stood Smith’s Garage, the track continued in the centre of the road, leaving Warriners Garage on the left hand side before passing Bentley Road junction. Continuing in the centre of the Great North Road, now the A638, the track passed under the railway bridge, beyond Sprotbrough Lane – then an unbuilt country lane, over the two culverts, finally veering onto the left-hand verge before ascending the railway bridge between The Grove and Watchhouse Lane. As with Sprotbrough Lane, there were no buildings except farm properties on Cusworth Lane, Barnsley Road, Pipering Lane, Castle Hills Lane and Green Lane (which boasted a fishpond where it joined the main road, and was known locally as fishpond lane). On the left-hand side of the track as it neared the top of the rise opposite Jossey Lane stood Scawthorpe Hall with its three Lodges, the centre one of which stood empty for quite a long time; the windows boarded up. Locally, it was reputed to be haunted.

The first built-up area was the newly built Highfields, distinguished soon after the war with the erection of the cenotaph with its list of casualties from the village, which stands prominently at the junction of the two main streets in its own garden area.

A further mile of track completed the four mile run to the terminus at Green Lane, Woodlands. As it was only single track, to enable travel in both directions, loops, or by-passes, had been laid at about half mile intervals. Arguments arose between drivers as to which of them had erred when trams travelling in opposite directions met where no loop was near. This dilemma was invariably resolved by one of them agreeing – not always with good grace – to reverse his car to the nearest loop. On more infrequent occasions a driver would attempt to enter a loop at too fast a speed, jumping the points and derailing the tram-car. This entailed a long delay waiting for a breakdown tram to arrive with jacking equipment. Meanwhile the service would be maintained either side of the derailment continuing a shuttle service.

The service from Doncaster to Woodlands ran at intervals of 20 minutes, taking some 25 minutes each way. Doncaster to Highfields cost 2 pence and the fare to Woodlands was 3 pence in the latter part of the 1920’s. Earlier I believe it had been three-halfpence and twopence respectively, but that was when my parents paid, so I was not involved with fares.

The first bus that I travelled in was an old Model T Ford conversion. It had been a commercial dray, from 1921 my dad was trainer/manager  of the local church football team, Highfields St Georges, of the Sunday school league. Each Saturday afternoon during the football season I accompanied them wherever the match was to be held. To reach ‘away’ fixtures such as Stainforth, transport had to be arranged, there being no form of public transport other than the tramways. This was where a local man, Tommy Finean, was useful. Tommy owned a Ford ‘T’ model, over the drey of which he had erected a canopy and had furnished the interior  with 2 seats which ran from front to rear on either side. This truck was hired whenever neccesary, carrying the players and reserves in the back, my dad and I riding along side the driver. At 7 years old I revered some of the players as much as if they had been playing for England – especially Les and George Scott, Tony Grainger, Len Marshall and Tommy Critchlow.

The team was made up from local young men, not neccesarily church-goers. I cannot recall the names of all the players after so many yaers, but their enthusiasm I remember very well. Although Tommy Critchlow was more slightly built than some of the others, what he lacked in stature was aptly compensated by his agility.

Some of the areas visited presented more opposition from the onlookers than from the footballers. The female supporters of one opposition side, seeing their team well and truly beaten by St Georges, were loudly encouraging their team to ‘give ’em some clog’ and ‘lerrem ‘ave it’, which again wasn’t cricket, if you see what I mean.

Even so, Saturday afternoons were to me just as enjoyable as Saturday mornings on the allotments. Life was good.