Memories of Calderdale

Sowerby Bridge Goods Office: 1939


Geoffrey Siddall

I left Sowerby Bridge Secondary School, at the end of term in December 1939, shortly after the outbreak of WW2. During 1940, I attended an office at Queens Hotel, Leeds for an interview for the post of Goods Clerk with British Railways. I got the job and started work at Sowerby Bridge Goods Office.

The Office was situated at the entrance to the Goods Yard at Sowerby street. This square building faced up Sowerby Street, and was originally the Passenger Station, with Booking Hall carved in the stone above the main door. The layout consisted of a large main office with full length desks at waist height, with tall buffets, so you could work sitting or standing. There was a smaller desk, which had a typewriter, which was little used, particularly as it was a special one, with only the Capitals available.

It was similar to the Forces, everything was laid down to be done in a special way. The railway ran its own postal service, little envelopes (to be re-used), were received each day, asking for information on tracing missing goods. Messages were also sent to trace forward goods which had been sent by us, normally ignored by the larger tranship stations. In this case we would be authorised to send a copy by Royal Mail. If, however, we got one by Royal Mail, this would be a bad mark, as it implied that we had not replied to internal mail.

The whole set up was very Dickensian, everything was written in longhand, and, although Shorthand was expected, I never saw anyone use it. At first, I sat at one side of the Chief Clerk, holder of the pen, while a girl, who started at the same time as me, sat at the other, with the Blotting paper. Mr Cook, the Chief Clerk, then would enter the weight, check the destination and charge, and enter this on to a Statement for the client, give me back the pen, and take the Blotting paper from the girl, before starting on the next entry. As this was my first job, I could not visualise doing this for the next forty years. I had a short break between 11:45 and 12:45 when I took over from the man who operated the railway public weigh scale on Station Road, so that he could have his lunch. This was set near the coal staithes on Station Road, I seem to recall that about 8 of them were working, and used by various coal merchants. My job was to weigh the wagon loaded with coal, and issue a ticket and receive payment ... 2d!

This was the highlight of my day, which I looked forward to.

After about a month, I was sent to Mytholmroyd goods office, where I was promoted to actually putting the pen to paper, and received more training on the office routine

© Malcolm Bull 2021
Revised 10:26 / 30th May 2021 / 4418

Page Ref: M_13

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