She’s a girl of York city

Memories of a 1930s childhood in York, attending Scarcroft School, playing on the Stray, and skipping games. By Audrey, who now lives in the US.


I went to Scarcroft School, remember lovely miss Pollock there. My mother bought the Arthur Mees encyclopedias for us 10 of them full of stories, history, poetry, geography etc. all made interesting and well illustrated. Miss Pollock loaned it a book at a time and gave me a little globe of the world as a thankyou.

Gym was a series of exercises then, arms up arms down, etc. but we worked off steam at least. Scarcroft with its swings outside the school was a meeting place, waiting for a turn on a swing. Many a child has had its head banged by going too near when they were all in action, which was most of the day time.

We had bags of glass marbles which were played for in holes scooped out of the ground near the swings. The lovely coloured glass ones were prized. I hated losing mine to the winner and so often did! My favourite game was playing ball games against a wall. Sets of 4 throws each different. Drop the ball and you were out and the next girl took over. Adding claps and rolls with our hands so the game got harder.


We had long skipping sessions too, the long rope taken in turn by two girls and everyone skipping in and trying to get out without tripping the rope. The rhyme – ‘the wind, the wind the wind blows high, the rain comes scattering down the sky, she is fair and she is pretty she’s a girl of York city, may I tell you who is she’ (a girls name was called and she was held inside the group) everyone chanting – ‘he took her down the lane, he sat her on a seat, said my darling, wont you marry me?’ – a name was chosen and more singing – ’she said tomorrow, he said today, lets take the coach and horses and all run away.’


The Yorkshire Film Archive has some charming film clips depicting childhood in decades past, available to view online.
Free to Grow Up (1956) shows children at New Earswick Primary School, near York, in their PE lessons.

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    Coal fires, flaming in the grate, with the oven alongside, the drawer pulled out and the heat was pulled sideways underneath the oven. Many a sunday lunch was cooked this way.
    A copper kettle on the hearth was swung on a trivet over the fire to boil and lifed off to brew the tea which we had morning, noon and teatime.
    Home baking was a money saver and many a tray of buns or scones adorned our tea table. Bread and jam as a starter.
    We never had cheese but occasionally a sausage roll from Wrights pork butcher up the road. Polony in its red skin was another sandwich filler.
    Dinner was at lunchtime. Belly Pork or Breast of Lamb roasted with potatoes done round the meat. a fresh vegetable from Hannons or Rowsons nearby in Blossom St. where we lived.
    A pan of chips made with dripping from the jar that it was stored in, every joint yielded some dripping in those days.
    meat was not as fatless as it is nowadays.
    Rice pudding or Groundrice pudding, Sponge pudding with custard were popular finishers to our dinner, (which was at lunchtime then)
    Teatime was 5p and Bread and Jam, or toast done in front of the fire. dad occasionally got a little cheese but we didnt.
    The treat of the week was a bacon sandwich on sunday morning taken in bed!!!
    We seem to want so much nowadays, I thought we were rich and that the children who disappeared for free school meals at some hidden place were poor. (I never knew where they went)
    The advent of school dinners was the war, it helped to save the rations so mum let us stay and we loved it.
    Our favourite desert was the large yorkshire puddings, they poured golden syrup onto them!!!
    I wonder if the horse and carriage still stand in the street in the Kirk Museum” we used to poke at the horses legs and sides. the street was opened when I was a child and it was a favourite place in the museum for children. the fire station, the apothecaries, the sweet shop, etc. we wandered at will and it was all free.
    We would go across the front of the museum to the corner where Dick Turpin was supposed to have been hung and imagine him there!!!
    Another favourite place on sunday was to walk to York Cemetery and wander round the graves, pulling weeds out. taking out dead flowers. reading the old grave stones and looking for family ones.
    I dont think children can roam as freely nowadays. I was only stopped once on hobmoor by “a strange man” as my mother called anyone who might speak to us when we were alone. we were instructed to keep walking and not stop or take any offers from them.
    other than that we were free to walk anywhere and did.
    The thing I felt most was being so cold in winter. we had a coal fire but once you moved away it was freezing. We undressed in front of the coal fire and then had our cocoa and shot down the corridor to bed. Mum would bring a metal baking sheet from the fire oven, wrapped in a towel and slip it under the covers near our feet to get us warmed up.
    Keeping warm was always the worst thing about winter. feet and hands were icy.
    We sat in front of the fire as near as we could get till bedtime. reading usually.
    we played ludo, draughts, or cards to pass time on. Dad read the York Press and his Daily mail. Mum had a library book. the radio was on with music or perhaps a play and always the news.
    Yes money was tight, but we didnt realise that, life is what you are used to that is your norm. We were happy kids, full of life and energy and imagination too.
    We played board games, or read library books, or old books from my grannys home. plus Arthur Mees encyclopedia.we had to keep them clean and be careful with them, they were a fund of knowledge and helpful with homework!!!

  2. Bagnall 1928,you must be “Audrey”with your Arthur Mees inspired,encyclopaedic fund of York Stories. A very evocative and true,walk down memory lane ,in a city busy with work,not tourists.Well done.

  3. Yorkshire puddings with golden syrup – remember those from my 1970s childhood too!

    Having to close comments on this page as spammers keep leaving comments. If Audrey’s memories have prompted your own memories of Scarcroft School, please email me via the contact link.

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