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Norman West

A written account by Norman West who lived in cottage between Castle Howard Station and Crambeck.

Lane between Crambeck and station

Norman West as a child in the lane between Crambeck and Castle Howard Station
Source: Norman West Collection

I was born in the October of 1937 in a small wooden bungalow above the priory at Kirkham Abbey, my father worked as groom for the Brotherton family the bungalow was a tied house (it went with the job) my dad started to lose his sight so the Brotherton’s kicked us out of the house (the property is still occupied in 2009).

My dad found an old cottage he could rent from the Castle Howard Estate at Crambeck so we moved there when I was four weeks old. The cottage was between the coal yard at Crambeck and Castle Howard Station; it was also between the river Derwent and the railway line. It consisted of a living room, scullery and pantry on the ground floor and three bedrooms, there was no Electricity or sanitation and the water was from a well in the garden, many years later we where told the water was not fit to drink, so a tap was installed almost half a mile away but we continued to use the well, dad made 92 years so there was not much wrong with the water. Lighting was from paraffin lamps and candles. I was the youngest of six children with five living at home. I was not very well as child and the Doctor recommended that I should have goats milk and honey. Dad got a Goat and my brother Derek fixed up an electric light in the goat house running off a battery so that we could see to milk. Close to the cottages was the ruins of an old Flax mill and I have wondered if the two cottages had been built for the workers. The family living next door to us was the MacKillican’s with four children, Doris, John, Ian and Michael. Unfortunately Michael drowned in the river whilst still quite young. Their father had been injured during the war losing a leg and was unable to bend the other one but this did not stop him from digging the garden from a sitting position. During the war a Saw mill was built near to the coal yard and trees where dragged over the River Derwent for processing and then loaded on to trains.

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Norman's father Albert West
Source: Norman West Collection

The earliest memories I have of the Station is going with my Brother Derek when he went to sort paper and cardboard in a large shed to help the war effort. On one occasion I found a Rupert Bear book and that was my prize possession for a long time. The other thing I remember was they used to play a game which consisted of a small ring suspended from the roof on a cord and the object was to swing the cord to land the ring on a hook screwed into the wall.

My dad had pyorrhoea and because there were no antibiotics in those days he had all his teeth removed he then recovered his sight. He got a job at the local quarry that is now Jamie's caravan site. One day he took me with him to the Station as they where taking delivery of a cart horse to work in the quarry leading stone that had been broken with hammers to the crusher to be made into road stone, you can imagine my delight when he lifted me on to Punch's back to ride him to his stable at the quarry.

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The Castle Howard quarry – now Jamie Craggs Holiday Park.The A64 is just beyond the line of trees.
Source: Helena Lee Collection

Some of the stone went to build the dual carriageway on the A64 in 1938 which was very forward thinking at the time. To extract the stone it had to be blasted out of the rock face with explosives, at the time of blasting the road to the station was closed to traffic and pedestrians, on a few occasions stones where projected on to the A64 and a few damaged the roof of Welburn Lodge.

The level crossing at the Station was widely used all the time I lived at the cottage with tradesmen's vans Fletcher the butcher from Norton, Rodwells the grocer from Welburn, an iron mongers van, a man with a pony and trap selling fruit and veg. The one treat I got was that he sold blue ribbon biscuits, there was also lorries and horses and carts going to the coal yard and even the Parson on his bike. The grocery order was collected with a man on a bike at the early part of the week for delivery later. Cattle where driven past our house on their way to a field between the station and the river and of course we used the crossing on regular basis. On the opposite side of the line to the station house was the station masters garden with a fountain and a Keswick apple tree needless to say they where too tempting for me not to sample, providing there was no one around. One weekend my brother Derek who was in the RAF turned up at home with an AEC Matador lorry towing a huge trailer, he stayed for the weekend. He had driven in from the coal yard end and as there was nowhere to turn round he set of to go over the crossing at the station but got stuck as the lorry and trailer where to long to get round the corner, a message was sent to Till's farm and Ron Till arrived with a Standard Fordson Tractor to drag the trailer round, it was cleared before a train was due. There was not many.

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Left to right: Colin West, boy unknown and Derek West with Bob the donkey from Scarborough Sands.
Source: Norman West Collection

People to play with at Crambeck. When I was young I played with Betty Milson who lived in the converted waiting room at the station. We played for many an hour in her bedroom; it had a balcony over looking the platform and was the waiting room that had been used by the Howards and Queen Victoria prior to the conversion to living accommodation. As I got older I played with the Hatfield boys Michael and Keith and my brother Colin. The Hatfield's looked after a donkey in the winter it came from Scarborough sands and was farmed out to them in winter to save the owners having to feed it, we went to see him (Bob) when we had our summer trip to the seaside. One night Colin and me with a friend Bill Jefferies where making our way home, we where following the river and noticed a tailors dummy lodged on a plank that stuck out into the river, the plank had been placed there to support a pipe to feed water to the steam engine that drove the Saw Mill. Thinking we could have some fun with it Colin pushed the dummy free with a stick intending to get it out of the river when it washed into the side at a bend, we followed it down until it was close enough for him to put the stick over the top to drag it in, as it got closer to the bank it turned over and to our horror this half skeleton face appeared we then realised it was a body. Bill ran off to get my dad to come and dad secured the body until the police arrived. We later found out that it was an evacuee boy who had fallen in the river six months earlier at Old Malton. The Derwent was known to be a dangerous river a soldier drowned on exercise trying to cross the river in the Hatfield's Canoe. The river was a constant source of entertainment for us we fished it and spent many hours talking to the fishermen that arrived every weekend from the west riding to compete in fishing matches, they where also a source of free maggots. On most weekends in summer, pleasure boats went up and down the river from Malton to Kirkham Abbey I often counted them and recall as many as twenty boats in one direction in a day, two of the most memorable where the Fay which was a large house boat owned by Mr. Masser the photographer in Malton, but the most interesting one was an ex harbour masters launch forty foot (12.2 m) in length with a four foot six inches (1.4m) draught it was owned by the Lazonby`s of Welburn. On leaving school I worked at Rodgers garage in Welburn for £1 per week and I later worked on the boats engine it was a twin cylinder Kelvin it started up on petrol then when it warmed up you turned it on to paraffin. I understand now you can only navigate the river with a canoe due to blockages and silt.

In the winter of 1947/8 there was a terrible amount of snow and we had to walk to school at Welburn one and three quarter miles each way very often on the frozen snow on top of the hedges (schools didn't close in those days) After the snow there was a rapid thaw accompanied by heavy rain we where watching the river rising each day. One night my brother and I went out and my mother went to a whist drive dad stayed at home to flood watch. On our return we suddenly walked in flood water there been no lights at all, Colin said he would climb in through the bedroom window from the railway embankment but because I was too small to do that I kept walking. At the front door there must have been a foot of water. Apparently dad had gone to sleep with his feet on the stool when he woke up he put his foot down and splash, the water was in the house. We went into the barn got planks and rested them from the railway embankment onto the window sill with a hand rail nailed to the window frame and that is how we got mum into the house. We lived upstairs for about six weeks with about three feet of water in the house with only a Valour paraffin heater for warmth, it consisted of a small round wick with a tall chimney, and mum only had a primus stove to cook on (one small burner). We had sides of bacon and two hams from our home fed pigs being salt cured on the pantry floor and these had to be rescued. The bucket of Lard from the pig floated out of the pantry when we opened the door. We also had Eggs preserved in Isinglass in large earthenware pots. It was reported in the local paper that a man fishing off the platform in Malton railway station actually caught a fish; fortunately Castle Howard station was well above the flood levels.

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Norman in uniform with his parents Florence and Albert West
Source: Norman West Collection

The one big occasion in the year was our trip to Scarbrough, this started with all children from Welburn School meeting at the station in time to catch the seven thirty mail train, the children from Welburn and the surrounding area where brought to the station on trailers pulled with tractors that where provided by farmers one been Mr Prest who operated thrashing machines but later we were taken by coaches (the end of an era). We where constantly on the rail line either picking wild Strawberries or picking up coal that fell from engines or putting pennies on the line for the engines to run over and flatten. The engine drivers reported vibration on the track so that put an end to that. I signed up to join the Army (REME) at seventeen and a half in 1955 and really lost contact with the station it was closed then but lived in by the Hollings family, Dick, Kath and two boys. My parents moved so I had no reason to visit the area. I visited again some thirty years later when I returned to the area to become general manager of a Quarrying company. I could not believe that there was little evidence of where we lived and that there was no right of way across the station crossing.