Bank & Brake Level Village

Having recently retired I have started to research into the family tree, which led me to this site and I wish that I had found it earlier. I lived in Brake Village from the age of 2 days and it was fascinating to recall so many names and events I thought I had forgotten
I was actually born at Rockside above, what is now, Woodcock Lane.
Because my father worked night shifts at the time, my mother went to my Auntie Annie Cotterill in Rockside to give birth and, at 2 days old I returned home to Brake Village. I was the only child of George Edward Goodwin (Ted) and Mary Elizabeth Goodwin (nee Moors) At that time my mother’s father, and my grandfather, Alf Moores, lived with us. My grandfather was 80 when I was born and had been totally blind for a number of years. Although I could only have been 4 or 5 at the time, I clearly remember Dr. Elliot visiting and being amazed to see my grandfather shaving using a cut throat razor. Although totally blind, he always had a mirror propped up in front of him and I never remember him cutting himself.

Our next door neighbour at that time was an elderly widow, Mrs Mitchell. A lovely and very self contained lady.
At the bottom of the Brake , where the Brake met the main road, lived George Boyson who was a local councillor. I remember Georgie, as he was known, as a dour character with little humour but people trusted him to sort out their problems.

Opposite George Boyson, lived Monty Bowker and his wife whose name I forget. Monty was the exact opposite of George in that he was jovial and friendly. Whenever you went past, he always seemed to standing at his front door and he always had a word for young or old. Visually, he always reminded me of George Formby.

Next to the Bowkers were Tommy and Mary Cotterill and their son Colin. Tommy and Mary eventually took over the Crown in the village, Tommy always had a car when there were few private cars about and I had many trips out with them to North Wales. The trips were great fun but seemed to take for ever because Tommy didn’t like to drive fast – or. perhaps the cars wouldn’t go any faster. I always remember that Tommy kept hens on a minute patch of land on the opposite side of the road. Nobody really knew who’s land it was but few appeared to care.

Above us on Brake Village were Mr and Mrs Ford and their son Spencer who went on to become a senior executive with Richards Tiles. Next to them lived Reg and Olive Taylor and their sons Roy and Barry. Roy and I were the same age and, for our formative years, we were virtually inseparable

The only other two houses on Brake Village were those occupied by Ralph and Lillian Tuttle ( Lillian was the sister of Olive Taylor ) and the house and coal haulage business of Harry Ball and his wife Hilda and daughter Jean.

At the bottom of Brake Village was the shop owned by Arthur Richardson. There cannot be a better description of this shop than in Audrey Chiltern’ memoir. It was as close to Arkwright’s shop as anything could be. When Arthur retired the shop was bought by Clyde Morris who moved from the Harrisehead area and, in fact, built himself a new house on land at the bottom of the Brake.

At the age of 5 I started school at Woodcock Wells where Vernon Ball was Headmaster. The teachers at the time were the lovely Mrs. Priestman, the slightly daunting Miss Bailey and, in the later part of my time at the school,  the fantastic Miss Forrester. I passed my 11+ at the school to go to Wolstanton Grammar and I am certain that Miss Forrester was instrumental in me passing. My mother went to Woodcocks Wells and we both agreed that there was no better school anywhere in the country.

A comparison of a childhood today and that in the early 1950s is stark. A typical day for me as a 7/ 5 year old was to walk to school up the Brake, walk or run back after school, to walk to my cousin Bill’s after a bite of tea and to run back home again, often after it got dark. That probably constitutes about  4 miles walked or ran – regardless of weather. Leaving Rockside in the dark usually going over the back wall and running down the rock side to join Woodcock Lane, turning down Woodcock Lane , past the churchyard and down the Brake. I am not sure if the churchyard had any bearing on it but the running speed certainly increased at that point. Today, a 7/ 8 year old would not be considered safe out alone in the dark but, at that time, there was no perceived safety issue. Also, at that stage, I am sure that any one of us could have run a marathon with minimal additional training. 

We did so many things that would not be allowed today. In the playground at Woodcock Wells we had access to vertical rock faces which we climbed, we had stone throwing battles – which were not intended to cause anyone any harm but certainly sharpened your reflexes. We went along to the Machine fields below Butchers Corner and built camps out of wet clods (turf ) we went further down towards Kent Green where we would dam the stream to build a paddling/ swimming pool.  There were people who rode down the Drumbers on bikes without brakes ( John Owen was one ). We played football, cricket, rounders and the like on the Rec on a space which was little more than a postage stamp and overgrown with thorn bushes ( This is now the top of Grays Close )

Nobody ever got hurt – well, seriously hurt that is. We were not mollycoddled, we were not overweight and we were fit

Reading the other memoirs reminds me of so many things and events I thought I had forgotten. Standing petrified singing a solo in the pantomime at the Parish Room ( “ Smile” by Charlie Chaplin ), Watching Fred and Bill Leeson rebuilding an old blue MG sports car which they had bought as bits, watching  Fred Howell finish rebuilding my shoes ruined by constant footballing.

Prize day at Bank Chapel. The Superintendents at the time were Billy Wright and George Dixon and, every year, the Sunday school pupils received a book (usually of their choice). The presentation would normally be by a senior Methodist cleric but, the year that I remember best, the books were presented by Ray King who was, at the time, the Port Vale goalkeeper. I had been introduced to Port Vale 3 years earlier by my cousin Bill and I clearly remember standing speechless and in awe of this great man. It was the equivalent of meeting David Beckham.

Whilst I still see Chris Hallen, David Cliff and Colin Cotterill, as the years go by, we lose touch with many of the friends and the individuals who were so influential in our growing up which is inevitable but is also such a pity.

Graham Goodwin