Willow House: Mike Bradshaw

Posted on 10 November 2012 | Narrative, Audio

I was born and bred in York. I’m now sixty-three, but we moved away, my wife and I, when I was in my thirties to work away, in Preston. And then I got a job back in Leeds so we came back to live nearer York, and ended up in Bishopthorpe.

And when we came back, it was then that I more appreciated York, because when you come from a very historical place, and one which hasn’t been over industrialised, it’s a nice place to be, but I didn’t appreciate it until I actually came back. We thought, “Ah, it’s really nice, and we’ll find out more about York.” So, we joined York Civic Trust and we do quite a lot of walks with them, going to places in York that you can’t really get access normally, and we found out a lot more about York than we thought existed.

Then, we got talking to a volunteer, in one of the National Trust properties, I can’t remember where now, but she was very nice and we were saying how interested we were in history and we were from York and she just said, “Have you ever thought about being a volunteer?” So, when we got back from that visit, we contacted Treasurer’s and asked if they wanted any volunteers and we try and do it as much as possible. We get a lot of enjoyment out of it.

I’m still finding little bits about York, even now. Where there’s some book comes out and just points me in a new direction and tells me something else, so, but I mean I’ve seen a lot of changes in York. You know, I remember when the cattle market was in the middle of York, near Walmgate bar.

All along there, on Navigation Road, were just cattle, until 1970 York had a major livestock market right in the middle. My mother once told me she once saw a stray cow from the cattle market where she lived, which was in The Groves, near where Rowntree’s factory is, so how it got from there… but, little stories like that, it’s amazing.

Just where off King’s Square, that big housing estate off St Andrewgate; that was, in the 1960s and 1970s, just a load of scrap merchants and warehouses and things, horrible! As a little boy then, I used to take stuff to the rag and bone man. He used to come round, with a bell and a barrow, saying “rag and bone”, and if you had any old clothes, anything like that, you could go out, give it to him and he’d give you some money.

They always used to have their stall yards just where St Andrewgate is, so if my mother said “Oh, can you take this down to the rag and bone man and he’ll give you tuppence or something?”, I said, “Oh yeah, I’ll take it,” and just go along there. Then suddenly, all that is now a lovely modern development, which is very tasteful, but a whole history is gone there, and what used to be there.

One of the things very new which I did was only last week. I joined a tour from York civic trust round Holgate Windmill. Until about maybe twenty years ago, it was just a grey building, and it’s finally complete. For the first time I knew you can now see it from the bar walls. Six months, ago you wouldn’t have seen it. Since they put the final cap on, and the sails, now you can see it.

I never knew about that windmill until the story appeared in the Press. 

No one knows it’s there, unless you physically decide I’m going to find out what’s in there, and do it.

This story and the others featuring on our website this week (w/c 5th November 2012) have been gathered by volunteers at the University of York.