I was born in a cottage on Newton Lane on 23 January 1949 (the first of the two cottages just beyond the Ice Cream Farm, now called ‘Rose Cottage’).
My grandfather, Thomas (Tom) Randles, was born on a farm at Out Lane, Burwardsley, whilst my grandmother, Annie (nee) Huxley, was born on a farm in Newton.
I grew up in Huxley, living at ‘The Croft’ (almost opposite The Farmer’s Arms). This property, like others in the district, was owned by ‘WR Smith & Sons‘, an animal product manufacturer based at the Tattenhall Road Boneworks, located adjacent to the Shropshire Union Canal. Many employees were tenants of cottages owned by the Bonework Company and personal recollections confirm that the ‘Barracks’ (the cottages on Newton Lane) were sold off to Boneworks’ employees when, upon the receipt of £1, the deeds of the cottage in which they lived were handed over.
‘The Croft’, having land attached to it, was sold for £400.
Several of my family members were employees of WR Smith and Sons; my grandfather, my mother (Evelyn Randles) and several Aunts (Ethel and Molly) were all employees of Smith’s Boneworks (to name but a few).
I got to know quite a lot about the Boneworks when visiting my grandfather at the site. Bones were brought from the abattoir to the Boneworks by Bill Kinsey, a Tattenhall haulier. During the war years, when he carted the bones through the village, the residents complained of the quite dreadful smell, following which a tarpaulin was used to cover the bones. The bones (and flesh) were stored in the ‘Cracker’ shed and local fishermen used to come down to the shed for maggots. The bones then went to the industrial grinder known as the ‘Hummer’ (so called because of the noise that it made) which created a jelly-like substance (gelatin). The gelatin came back in pots and could be sliced, not unlike a loaf of bread. My mother and Aunt Molly then carried the trays (on which were the large slices of gelatin) to the kilns/cubicles where the gelatin was dried. Coal for the drying kilns was brought in by barge using the nearby Shropshire Union Canal. Effluent from the yard ran into a ditch near the road. It was said that you always knew when you were approaching the Boneworks, even in foggy weather, because of this ‘stinky ditch’!! (the smell attached to the Boneworks is also remembered in Alice Dutton’s oral history).
Glue, also made at the Boneworks, was used in aspects of aircraft manufacture during the war. Rumour has it that the bombing of Gosmore’s old farm was the result of German bombers trying to hit the glue factory – in any event the farm took a direct hit and the windows of the ‘Barracks’ were blown out! Following the war, the gelatin was used by Rowntree’s and Squirrels – confectioners in jelly and fondant icing. When Kinsey came back from delivering the gelatin to the factories of Rowntree and Squirrels I was often given a pocketful of ‘jellies’ and ‘fondants’!
Philip recalls that two of the bosses at the Boneworks were named ‘Mr Pickup’ and ‘Mr Drage’. He also recalls that a ‘Walter Lockett’ was the store man and that the store was also used for ‘clocking on’. When the Boneworks was no longer in use, the chimney stack was demolished by demolition expert, ‘Blaster Bates’ who demolished some 500 tall chimney stacks throughout his illustrious career. So skilled was ‘Blaster Bates’ that (it is said) not one brick fell into the nearby canal!