I should say at the outset I am a fan of David Wood’s regular contributions to the Sentinel’s The Way We Were pages. His descriptions of his hometown of Goldenhill are always engaging in reflecting times before life sent us on different paths.
It is nostalgia, of course, that takes us to where we feel most comfortable, often extolled in the words of poets and storytellers, even in popular songs like Tom Jones’s Green Green Grass of Home and the sentimental yearnings of Paul Simon’s Homeward Bound, there’s no doubt that home is where the heart is.
The word ‘nostalgia’, not widely used until the twentieth century, is an expression we employ to take us to the past tugging at the heartstrings. It is said to have first been used in 1787 by a field surgeon diagnosing a battle shocked Welsh solider who presented with an overwhelming feeling of homesickness.
But the word has an entirely different meaning today, as expressed by the title of David Wood excellent memoir, A social History of Goldenhill in the Post War Years – 1946 to 1964.
Social history is central to the way we connect with tradition and heritage. We gain access through experience and the recording of experiences. And this is something the author does extremely well in documenting village life of his childhood. He achieves this with 32 theme headings through which he describes Goldenhill’s lost streets and buildings, its institutional and cultural environment, and its leisure locations.
He recalls common trades that no longer exist but were traditional elements in the fabric of daily life before the age of supermarkets, online trading, and regional and global transitions.
This was a complete community, where the shoe repairer (the cobbler), the individual who wakened people to go to work (the knocker-up); and the man who switch on streetlights (the lamp-lighter), the domestic fuel distributer (the coalman), and the man who called to check household fuel usage (the meter man) all held court.
Under the heading, ‘Where in the world would you find a village that seems to have everything’, the author gives a brief history from 1609 as one of the most elevated settlements in the district.
Semi-rural in his own time, he records the convenience of buying foodstuffs from adjacent farms; bread from a local bakery, fresh fish and freshly butchered meat, staple foodstuff from local specialist stores, confectioners, newsagent, and fish and chip saloons.
Goldenhill, he tells the reader, had everything a community could wish for, edifices for diverse religious denominations, and companion schools for all-through education, cinemas and hairdressers, an onsite bus service, post office, ironmongery, cinema, its own police station and lock-up, and as many pubs as an inebriated man could stand up in – seven in total. Goldenhill had it all; and in most cases an individual’s life began and ended here.
The author details his strict schooldays, the delights of long summer holidays, childhood ailments and old fashioned remedies; Sunday school processions, the celebration of bonfire night, and Christmas in the 1950s, all recalled with affection.
The reader will find no location illustrations between the covers of this comprehensive study. But what it doesn’t offer in photographs, compensation twice over is offered in textural imagery penned in highly readable and colourful prose.
The nostalgic theme, though, is perpetuated soberly, for David Wood’s Goldenhill has nigh on disappeared in tranches of slum clearance programmes. He justly laments that the village he grew up in is no more. In fact it is quite possibly the most altered location in the city, unrecognisable from the descriptions portrayed here.
This is a first-rate local history document for which I congratulate the author for sharing his memories.
Priced at £9.99, it can be bought direct from the author or the publisher, North Staffordshire Press. Sales from shops will be announced.