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John Smith


Life on the Woodside estate (1960s and 1970s)

Black and white class photograph from Burngreave Secondary Modern School, 1967.
Class photograph from 1967/68 from Burngreave Secondary Modern. John is seated on the front row, third from left. The teacher is Mr Richards. © John Smith

My mother and father moved to the Woodside estate in Pitsmoor in 1962. Up to that point they had lived together as a married couple in my grandmother's house at Handsworth. A lot of working class families did this then, I guess largely for financial reasons. That would make my dad around 35 when we moved to Pitsmoor and my mum a bit younger. I was 5 or 6 and my sister was 9 or 10.

I have a memory, seems dreamlike really, of being held by my dad and looking out of the windows of our maisonette (55 Andover Drive) during a particularly windy day at the damage caused by gales. It could have been the winter of 1962, which was supposed to be bad. The Woodside estate was brand new then and the flat was my mum and dad's first home of their own. The flats were in rows with a central stairwell going down to the ground floor. In the stairwell was a 'chute' where everyone put their rubbish. In later years the bins at the bottom were vandalised and often set on fire. The hot water systems were poor as well, the 'geezers' (geysers) used to blow up, bad design I guess.

There used to be a shop at the bottom of Andover Street, across the road, on Rock Street. It was a classic corner shop of it's time. It sold anything and everything and I suppose it gave Mr and Mrs Hancock a living of sorts. I guess they're long gone. Just up from the corner shop was the White House chip shop, a notable building. I used to get bags of 'scraps' from there in newspaper. Probably for free.

I went to Pye Bank Junior School. I remember looking at Hiawatha and a map of the world on the wall with a pink British Empire. We had sports days on Pye Bank recreation ground, dancing Scottish reels with a free ice cream. I failed the 11+ and went to Burngreave Secondary Modern instead of Firth Park Grammar. I was top of the class for two years running, top, in fact, in many subjects. I still have my old school reports, just to prove it! I remember making exploding ginger beer and singing songs about British Grenadiers.

I used to play football on Andover Drive. There was a goal painted on the wall at the end of a block of maisonettes and the noise of the ball hitting the wall used to annoy people in the flats, particularly Mrs Kerrigan. I had a lot of friends on the maisonettes. Sometimes we used to go to Parkwood Springs and I remember once we took bikes to the Rivelin Valley - it felt like another country.

I suppose the seventies saw the gradual decline of the estate. It was certainly a mixed up period for me, false starts and true stops. I got married in 1983 and finally left Pitsmoor. I had a three month period living in Fir Vale, next door to Burngreave, in 2004, but that's another story.

Written by John Smith, December 2006.