History uncovered: Bowton’s Yard, Samuel Laycock, and Stalybridge

Pictures and poems! Here, our community reporter and editor Bob reveals his special charity shop discovery and the history he has uncovered behind it. 

Since moving to Tameside, Greater Manchester, some 43 years ago when I got married and having an interest in local history, I bought a few books on Dukinfield (where I actually live), Hyde and Stalybridge (nearest neighbours) trying to find out how these two areas have developed and change over the years before I moved here. I also joined the relevant Facebook groups too.

When I finished paid employment prematurely, I started to volunteer locally at Cancer Research then AgeUK, and one day while walking through Ashton-under-Lyne between two AgeUK sites I passed one of the many charity shops, where I often scanned their windows, and I was drawn to a framed limited-edition print of a place named Bowton’s Yard.

I had read about this place in one of the previously mentioned books on Stalybridge, so I did nothing more than buy it – my wife was really pleased when I brought home another charity shop purchase!

Bowton’s Yard, Stalybridge

Firstly, I tried to find information on the artist, but I couldn’t make out the signature. I posted an enlargement of it on a couple of local Facebook pages and a few people came up trumps with the name – Jim Andrews.

Jim Andrews’ signature

I couldn’t find any references for Jim Andrews online, so I contacted the local studies library and art gallery in Tameside, who promptly replied that they have no information on him. However, another post on Facebook made reference to the fact that he was a local amateur artist who had sadly passed away so that search came to an end.

I now turned my attention to the subject of the painting Bowton’s Yard. This residential area of Stalybridge consisting of 12 houses has since been redeveloped and is now the site of a supermarket fuel station, and a search of Tameside’s image archive threw up an early photograph of it.

Samuel Laycock
© Tameside MBC

Further research revealed that the poet, Samuel Laycock, had written some prose about ‘Bowton’s Yard’ too – see below.

Samuel Laycock’s Bowton’s Yard

At number one, i’ Bowtons yard, mi gronny keeps a skoo,
But hasn’t mony scholars yet, hoo’s only one or two;
They sen th’owd woman’s rather cross,-well, well, it may be so;
Aw know hoo box’d me rarely once, an’ pood mi ears an’ o.

At number two lives widow Burns -hoo weshes clooas for folk
Their Billy, that’s her son, gets jobs at wheelin’ coke;
They sen hoo coarts wi’ Sam-o’-Neds, at lives at number three;
It may be so, aw conno tell, it matters nowt to me.

At number three, reet facin’ th pump, Ned Grimshaw keeps a shop;
He’s Eccles-cakes, an’ gingerbread, an’ treacle beer, an pop;
He sells oat-cakes an’ o, does Ned, he has boath soft an’ hard,
An’ everybody buys off him ‘at lives i’ Bowtons yard.

At number four Jack Blunderick lives ; he goes to th’ mill an’ wayves
An’ then, at th’ week-end, when he’s time, he pows a bit an’ shaves;
He’s badly off, is Jack, poor lad ; he’s rayther lawm, they sen,
An’his childer keep him deawn a bit-aw think they’n nine or ten.

At number five aw live mysel’, wi’ owd Susannah Grimes.
But dunno loike so very weel-hoo turns me eawt sometimes;
An’ when awm in there’s ne’er no leet, aw have to ceawer i’ th’ dark;
Aw conno pay mi lodgin’ brass, becose awm eawt o’ wark.

At number six, next dur to us, an close o’th’ side o’th’ speawt,
Owd Susie Collins sells smo’ drink, but hoo’s welly allis beawt;
But heaw it is that is the case awm sure aw conno tell,
Hoo happen maks it very sweet, an’ sups it o hersel!

At number seven there’s nobdy lives, they left it yesterday,
Th’ bum-baylis coom an mark’d their things, and took ’em o away;
They took ’em in a donkey-cart-aw know nowt wheer they went
Aw recon they’n bin ta’en and sowd becose they owed some rent.

At number eight-they’re Yawshur folk theres only th’ mon an woife,
Aw think aw neer seed nicer folk nor these i’ o mi loife;
Yo’ll never yer em foin’ eawt, loike lots o, married folk,
They allis seem good-tempered like, an ready wi a joke.

At number nine th’ owd cobbler lives- th’owd chap ‘at mends my shoon,
He’s getting very weak an’ done, hell ha’ to leov us soon;
He reads his Bible every day, an sings just loike a lark,
He says he’s practisin’ for heaven-he’s welly done his wark.

At number ten James Bowton lives-he’s th’ noicest heawse i’th’ row;
He’s allis plenty o’ sum’at t’ eat, an lots o’ brass an’ o;
An’ when he rides an’ walks abeawt he’s dress’d up very fine,
But he isn’t hawve as near to heaven as him at number nine.

At number ‘leven mi’ uncle lives-aw co him uncle Tum,
He goes to concerts, up an deawn an’ plays a kettle-drum;
I’ bands o’ music, an’ sich things, he seems to tak’ a pride,
An allis maks as big a noise as o i’ th’ place beside.

At number twelve, an’ th’ eend o’ th row, Joe Stiggins deals i’ ale;
He’s sixpenny, an’ fourpenny, dark-coloured, an he’s pale
But aw ne’er touch it, for aw know it’s ruined many a bard-
Awm th’ only chap as doesn’t drink ‘at lives i’ Bowton’s yard.

An’ neaw awve done aw’ll say good-bye, an’ leave yo’ for awhile;
Aw know aw have n’t towd mi tale i’ sich a first-rate style;
But iv yor’e pleased awm satisfied, an’ ax for no reward
For tellin’ who mi nayburs are at live i’ Bowton’s yard.

Bowton’s Yard
© Tameside MBC

For those who wish to hear a reading of ‘Bowton’s Yard’, you’ll find it here on YouTube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=-GMTWJIPT88

Although Samuel Laycock’s poem about the residents of ‘Bowton’s Yard’ stated he lived at number five, he actually didn’t and I suppose this is what’s called ‘poetic licence’.

Samuel Laycock was born on 17 January 1826 at ‘Intake Head’ in Marden in Yorkshire and later moved to Stalybridge with his family in 1837, home to the first cotton mill in Lancashire on Wood Street belonging to Ned Hall. Going from Marsden with a population of just over 2,300 to one of over 14,200, and rising rapidly, in Stalybridge must have been quite a shock for the Laycock’s.

Samuel Laycock – Blue Plaque

Samuel Laycock wrote his first poem in 1850 for one of his work colleagues in Leech’s Mill. Owner, John Leech, lived at Gorse Hall and was the grandfather of Beatrix Potter. ‘Bowton’s Yard’ was Samuel Laycock’s second most successful poem, the first being ‘Welcome, Bonny Brid’ which he first performed on 21 December 1863 at Ryecroft Male Adult School.

After giving up his work as a cotton-operative, Samuel Laycock had many vicissitudes and many occupations. For six years he was engaged as librarian and hall-keeper at the Stalybridge Mechanics’ Institute and acted as curator to the Addison Literary Club which had recently been formed in the town.

Those wishing to find out more about Samuel Laycock, his ‘Collected Writings’ can be found here: https://archive.org/details/collectedwriting00layc/page/n15/mode/2up and makes an interesting read.

Bob Alstonhttps://talkingaboutmygeneration.co.uk/author/bobtamg/
Tameside reporter, website and magazine designer and editor.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I was brought up on the works of Sam Laycock. Dad often said ‘welcome Bonny Brid’ to me.
    Bonny Brid being a poem about the Cotton Famine.
    A friend of mine from Moss side swears that she couldn’t understand a word my dad said because of his Lancashire accent and use of dialect.

  2. Bob, that is a fascinating story and shows the difference between those of us who grew up in South Manchester and our brothers and sisters in the Northern boroughs. I did a little research and found this “translated” version – shortened for modern ears – that helps people who don’t understand Lancashire dialect. Sam Haycock is classed as a minor Victorian writer, when clearly he was more than that as so many people know the verses, which seem to have been designed to be sung.

    https://minorvictorianwriters.org.uk/laycock/c_misc_3.htm

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