National Dementia Awareness Week: Memory Boxes

14th-20th May is National Dementia Awareness Week as the Alzheimer’s Society asks people to unite against dementia, to raise awareness and to offer help and understanding.

Memories, first hand recollections and experiences of people are extremely important and valuable to us all and thoughtful and engaging use of reminiscence when used well can be especially effective for those with dementia.

With this in mind we have refreshed and updated the Memory Boxes available to borrow from the Local Studies library.

The packs contain a selection of multi-sensory objects, pictures and memorabilia plus a beautifully illustrated book which reflects the topic.

We all like an occasional trip down Memory Lane and reminiscence can be great fun for everyone involved, as well as being an important activity that affirms our sense of identity.  These Memory Boxes can stimulate arts, history and memory groups. They can be used in a variety of settings including social and community groups, day centres and residential homes.

Our boxes include a book in the series of ‘Pictures to Share’ books designed for people with dementia. These books can help and encourage communication and discussion when shared with carers, provide a calming activity for the person to do alone, and promote a feeling of worth and well-being.

memory books

Pictures to Share books are based on a variety of general themes. They include a wide selection of powerful, colourful and attractive images and texts.

For more details please see our leaflet here:

Memory boxes for reminiscence

Bradford Libraries would like to thank the ‘The Memory Bank’ forum for creating the original concept and sourcing artefacts which form the basis of these collections.

A Bradford Childhood 1944-1955 – Part 3

Our move from Thornbury to Eccleshill inevitably involved enrolment at a new school:

Wellington Road Junior School was about a mile away from where we lived, and I walked there and back, lunchtimes included, every school day until I was eleven.
It was stone built with slate roofs and mullioned windows, some of them gothic in shape and set high in the walls. There was a bell tower near the head teacher’s office and this had an inscription in the stone that indicated it was an original Board School built in 1880.

I had several teachers in the earlier part of my stay there, but for my last two years leading up to the 11 plus I was very much under the permanent influence of Miss Davis, probably the most senior teacher in the school other than the head. She was highly respected, strict, methodical, skilled and sensible.

She was probably in her fifties when I knew her. She was of average height, quite slim, had a longish face and wore her greying hair swept into a bun at the back of her head. Like my mother, she put on a little make up and powder. Everything about her was sensible and controlled. She wore long, sensible woollen or worsted skirts, often some kind of herringbone or plaid, and a smart woollen twin set or blouse and cardigan and low-heeled shoes. She occasionally chose to wear some simple jewellery: a brooch, or a modest string of pearls, but no rings.

She read to us a lot in the afternoons. She would let us engage in simple handicrafts while she read, the boys often crocheting long chains of wool via the holes in old cotton bobbins. One afternoon she involuntarily revealed the softer side of herself when reading a sad passage from ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’:

We were all listening and knitting or crocheting when we suddenly realised the narrative had stopped. When we looked up we saw that Miss Davis was attempting to say the words, but no sound was coming out, and that tears were streaming down her face. Eventually she stopped attempting to read and began to sob, her shoulders heaving and her face beginning to contort. Two girls stood up and walked down the stepped aisle and made awkward attempts to comfort her. The rest of us looked on in stunned silence.

She recovered and eventually carried on reading, but the incident always stayed in my mind and often in later years made me think about the power of art and the mysteries of the human soul.

My father was determined I should go to grammar school but some of the coaching he organised for me at home didn’t always bring happy results:

One evening I became so upset and frustrated, I threw the pen down on my exercise book and swore, saying I would never do any more, ever. The action produced an explosion of ink from the pen resulting in a huge blue-black arc on the wallpaper of the adjacent wall complete with drips and runs flowing downwards from the ceiling to the skirting board. There was silence apart from my mother’s tears, and then she attacked my father verbally and I was forgotten in the midst of their bickering.

By the time of the examination itself I had IQ tests coming out of my ears and I had more or less forgotten it was even going to happen:

There was no warning given before the day that we were to begin our 11+ examinations. I remember walking, as usual, along the Harrogate Road to school on a blustery spring morning happily fascinated by straining trees, glinting puddles and ragged crows flung about in the sky, unaware something serious was about to happen. Only when required to file through long rows of quiet, sombre desks that had appeared overnight in the main hall outside our classroom did I realise that the long anticipated day had arrived. Miss Davis took the register and had a few discreet words about it being the first day of the dreaded 11+, how we should not be flustered by the event and should approach the whole thing with confidence. We entered the hall, took our places where our names were written on a card on a desk, together with a number, and then, when prompted, began to read the instructions, fill in our individual details, and answer the questions.

Taking the 11 plus was the last significant thing I did in Bradford. After that, we moved across the Pennines to Cheshire and my Yorkshire citizenship was ended. Except that it wasn’t, of course, because it never leaves you no matter where you go or how old you become. Yorkshire remains my spiritual home even though I am no longer a resident. My childhood experience in Bradford was enormously important to me and I suppose that is why I felt impelled to write about it. I was just turned seventy when I started to write and I didn’t want to lose the memory and, more importantly, I wanted to share it with my children and anybody else who might be interested to read it.

If you take the whole piece out to read, I hope you enjoy it and that it might either remind you of your own early life or give a reasonably accurate account of life as it was lived by a little boy in Bradford immediately after the Second World War.

Bob Nichol

Bob Nichol


A Bradford Childhood 1944-1955

About three years ago I decided to write a family history and made a valiant effort to fit the pieces together for my children; but, as time went on, I found I was increasingly inserting my own memories and the whole thing was beginning to take the shape of a memoir instead.

I discovered a need to place myself in the centre of the writing because some kind of half understood force was requiring me to write in a particular way about my own memories; but I was still able to use the documentary information I possessed to provide a historical context. It is as accurate an account as I can deliver. It should give a reasonable idea of what times were like for a small boy in Bradford just after the war and, although personal to me, might very well arouse complementary memories in those of my own generation who lived in Bradford as children at more or less the same time. If it has any historical value at all, it may even be of interest to later generations who will have no memory of this time but may be interested in exploring the flavour of those days which, although possibly dominated by drab austerity for adults were, in fact, for ‘us kids’, times of joy, adventure, colour, excitement, exploration, emotional richness and hope.

I was born in a nursing home somewhere in Bradford Moor in early 1944 and spent the first seven or eight years of my life with my parents and, later, my younger sister, in a terraced house on Evelyn Avenue in Thornbury. Some of my earliest memories are my clearest. This is one of the ways I remember my mother:

She was a talented singer who had been encouraged by her schoolteachers to enter competitions and to join the children’s pantomime chorus run by the local impresario Francis Laidler. For several seasons she had been a ‘Sunbeam’ at the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford and had sung and danced in front of capacity audiences; but now she sat alone, beside me, her hands smelling faintly of chopped vegetables, singing softly, as I lay in my little bed, half asleep, half awake, drifting towards oblivion.

 Lulla lulla lulla lulla bye bye
Does you want the stars to play with
Or the moon to run away with?
They’ll come if you don’t cry.

Lulla lulla lulla lulla bye bye
In your mammy’s arms be creepin’
And soon you’ll be a-sleeping
Lulla lulla lulla lulla bye.

Out towards Fagley Woods?

And my father, who I loved very much, but who could seem rather frightening at times:

After leaving school and beginning work in a textile company, my father had won a scholarship from the Bradford Chamber of Commerce that allowed him to travel in Germany for a few months. He won this opportunity because, after starting work, he had studied hard at night school to become fluent in the language, even though he had never been to Germany. By the time he returned, he was bi-lingual, which is why Army Intelligence later became interested in him when he ‘joined up’ just after the war started. He was drafted into field security, acting mainly as an interpreter helping to interrogate captured German officers, suspected Nazi collaborators and spies.


Life in the back streets was rich and varied. The alley at the back of our house saw a procession of colourful visitors over the years and was the main focus of our games and social lives. Here is one regular visitor I remember:

I was fascinated by the rag and bone man’s cry that pierced the air above the rumbling of his cart’s wooden wheels as it progressed over the stone and cinder surface of the alley. My friends and I sat on our garden wall in silence watching the grimy faced driver pass by clicking his tongue at his scrawny pony as it pushed against the creaking leather bindings between the shafts, its hooves clopping and slithering over the stones as it made its way to the end of the terrace. A stringy, mop-headed boy sat on the back of the cart staring at us from amongst the worn out army great coats, pots, pans and bits of old stove already collected. Occasionally, a pinafore-and-turban clad housewife would appear at her back garden gate and the boy would jump to the ground and collect an old washtub or bag of clothes to put with the other items on the cart in exchange for a couple of shillings or a few balloons.

Transport during my early boyhood didn’t involve a family car; that came a little later. I found Bradford’s public transport, especially the trams, a constant form of fascination and excitement:

Swaying tramcars, cream and brown, rattled on their iron rails along the main Leeds Road at the top of our street, clanging, rumbling and sparking beneath a dull yellow sky. They were intriguing, exciting, slightly frightening and wonderful fun to travel in. I was therefore sad to see one day workmen dig up the cobble bedded tram rails and replace them with smooth asphalt for the new, usurping trolley buses that immediately began to creep along the road on big fat rubber tyres, wheezing from stop to stop and swishing in the rain backwards and forwards between Bradford’s sooty outskirts and its monumental city centre.

Last day of trams on Church Bank July 23 1949

Last day of trams on Church Bank ©Bradford Libraries

The Saturday morning cinema matinee was an exciting source of information about other worlds (especially America) as well as tremendous entertainment:

With our two pennies entrance fee clutched in our hands we boarded the bus amidst shrieking and shouting and the clanging of studded boots on the stairs accompanied by the thump of fists against flesh as some kids settled quarrels on the way to their seats. We found somewhere to sit and rubbed the condensation off the windows to see out onto the black shiny-wet roads and the slate roofed sooty buildings. We passed shops and chapels, a garage, a long terrace of houses, dusty privet hedges, an old factory and several pubs. When we got to Stanningley we would all leave the bus in a continuous stream and join other lines of kids from other buses and make our way into the cinema. The whole place smelled of cleaning fluid, stale tobacco smoke, bubble-gum and farts.

I spent many long summer evenings caddying for my father on Phoenix Park Golf Course:

I liked it best when we got to the lower end of the course where the main railway line between Leeds and Bradford ran adjacent to one of the fairways. There was a level crossing near the tee-off and, when we got there, if I heard the clanging bell warning of a train’s approach, I would run to climb onto a wooden bar half way up the wobbling gate waiting, fascinated, looking for the first signs of the train down the line.

The little black dot would grow larger and larger and my excitement would mount on discovering it was an express. The smoke billowed out of the funnel; the steam driven thrusts of the piston and the wailing of the whistle drew closer and closer. Then, suddenly, with a soft woofing explosion of hot air, it was upon me and I could smell the oil and feel the heat of the fire from the cab as the engine roared past, screaming and rocking and rhythmically racing along the iron rails. I would lose myself in the enveloping noise, hanging grimly on to the gate, refusing to get down, my eyelids forming slits against the onslaught of sparks and soot, my hair blowing about my head and the slipstream tugging at my vibrating innards.

In my next blog entry I’ll say something about our move to Eccleshill, but to be going on with, I’ll share a few situations with you that I didn’t put in my memoir to see if any other memories are jogged. Some that we might all remember include:

Queuing along the inside of a magnificently decorated grotto at Brown Muffs (or was it Busby’s?) to see Santa Claus.

Busby's Main Store Manningham Lane 19541

©Bradford Libraries

Eating pie and peas in the high backed settles at ‘Pie Tom’s’ in the Kirkgate Market.

Kirgate entrance1

© Bradford Libraries


Sitting in the burgundy plush seats at the Alhambra waiting to see (amongst others) Norman Evans (over the garden wall) and Margery Manners (principal boy)……………. I remember very well seeing Wilfred Pickles play Buttons there with half a dozen or so live ponies on the stage. This means I almost certainly saw a young June Whitfield playing opposite him as Cinderella.

Anybody recognise any of this? I’ll try to think of a few more next time.

In the meantime, my memoir is on the library shelves, I believe, if you want to take a look.

Bob Nichol