HALF past six in the morning and the station platform at Barnoldswick was packed with bleary-eyed but excited children. This was 1937 and the start of a special train journey to London, picking up children from Keighley, Bingley and other West Riding towns, writes historian Alan Roberts.



A CHEERING crowd of parents and friends greeted the departure of 150 pupils and staff from Rainhall Road and Gisburn Road schools. An excellent lunch was served on the way down.

When they arrived in London the children were transferred to motor coaches organised by the London Transport Board for a tour of west London. They were met in Westminster by G.W. Rickards, the local M.P., who escorted the children on a guided tour of the Houses of Parliament. The party also visited Westminster Hall and Westminster Abbey.

Strict instructions had been given beforehand in case any child managed to get lost. Show your programme to a policeman and all will be well. In block capitals DO NOT SPEAK TO STRANGERS, THE POLICEMAN IS YOUR FRIEND and underlined ABOVE ALL, DO NOT CRY!

Back to the coaches for a whistle-stop tour of the east of the city: Cleopatra’s Needle was ‘inspected’, while there was a five-minute stop at the Tower of London to view Tower Bridge. At St Paul’s Cathedral there were 15 minutes to peep inside, and then off to Cheapside for a half-hour tea at Slater’s Café. This really was a slick operation.

The next stop was at the South Kensington Museums over twelve hours after leaving Barnoldswick. The children spent 90 minutes there ‘viewing the countless exhibits and asking innumerable questions’. At Hyde Park Corner, they were intrigued by the ‘raucous oratory of the open-air speakers’. They had an extended view of Buckingham Palace as the coaches drove slowly past. This was only rivalled by the illuminations at Olympia. They also saw Marble Arch, Albert Hall and the big stores on Oxford Street.

Everyone arrived safely back at St Pancras station at 10.30 p.m. for the journey home. Supper was served on the train, and the children arrived back in Barnoldswick just before five o’clock on Sunday morning. Their trip to London had taken over 22 hours. They arrived home ‘with radiant faces and joyful memories of a truly great occasion’.

The itinerary and photograph were found in the archives of Barnoldswick History Society. When the photograph was shown at a recent meeting, one member spotted her mother Elsie May Holden wearing a beret and standing in front of the left-hand side of the station house. She was thirty years old and taught at Gisburn Road Infants School. One wonders how many other young Barlickers can also be identified. It’s good to uncover these links with our past.

Meanwhile storm clouds were gathering. Another trip to London would soon become impossible. Barnoldswick UDC had been asked to send a representative to Skipton the following month where a Home Office official would deal with air-raid precautions. Yes, war with Germany was drawing nearer.

The Craven Herald reported the launch of a new super-fast steam train by the London, Midland and Scottish Railway. Appropriately named the Coronation Scot – King George VI and Queen Elizabeth had been crowned earlier that year – the train would make the journey from London to Glasgow in just six and a half hours. Fully streamlined, it must have been an amazing sight in its bright blue livery with silver stripes running along the side of the locomotive and coaches. Indeed, a test run recorded a magnificent top speed of 114 miles per hour. This train was surely a symbol of a new modern age.

Appearances can be deceptive. Behind the shining paintwork and fashionable styling there was an uncomfortable truth. Coal-burning steam locomotives were dirty and inefficient. In Barnoldswick numerous complaints had been made about clouds of coal dust being blown into nearby Fernlea Avenue from the railway station yard. One Tuesday the wind direction had caused enough coal dust to ‘half-fill a cart’ to accumulate in the road. The dust was a quarter to half an inch thick in places and one butcher had to remove the meat on display in his window and place it in his refrigerator. The sanitary inspector agreed to investigate.

The education committee discussed the lack of playing fields for local schools. Children were having to use Victory Park, parts of which were used by the town’s football and cricket clubs. It was agreed to place the question of playing fields before Barnoldswick UDC with a view to an approach being made to West Riding Council. Unsurprisingly nothing happened for many years.

Gisburn Road School has now been equipped with a multi-use playing area. Rainhall Road School been converted into a mixed-purpose centre for both businesses and the community. Two other primary schools have been rebuilt on new sites. Progress has finally been made.

This year we celebrated another coronation: our first king in eighty-six years. And strangely the same issues are in the news: how to travel rapidly by rail from north to south and how to reduce environmental pollution caused by fossil fuels.