2nd November 1944 - Harrogate - Leeds

Wakened by the sound of a blacksmith working at the back.  Grey-pink dawn, but fine.  Cold.  Felt dreadful.  Had porridge for breakfast, but not much else.  Coffee.  Pleasant room, several good looking Waafs and RAF officers.  Paid 13/6.

Walked across the greens and saw a man riding at a canter on a big bay horse.  Dogs playing and the sun just rising, gold among clouds.  Collected cycle which had stood in front of house all night.  Mrs Soar was decidedly cool.  Phoned Daven Soar to say goodbye.  

Went out on the Leeds Road, up a long bank among good class horses.  Several useful looking cobs in milk floats, greengrocery trolleys etc.

On my right the land rose up in rolling hills, away to Wharfedale and Ilkley Moor beyond, and on the left there were gentle slopes down to the valley of the Nidd.  Long easy down hill run, across Crimple Beck, wide meadows everywhere.  Lots of cows.  Sound of a tractor far off, breaking stubbles.  Could see the brown strips on a distant hill.  Near here is a cattle market, looking lonely and incongruous at such a distance from a town.  Perhaps put there so as to be sufficiently far away not to offend susceptibilities of the habituees of Harrogate.  Signpost indicating Kirby Overblow.  Across the wharfe, to the park wall at Harewood House.  Followed this for the next 3 miles, saw the gaunt picturesque ruins of Harewood Castle, set among trees on a high bank.  (A boy fell from the top the other day, and was killed).  Went through the village, and past the main entrance to the Park, but the house is too far away to be seen.  The heir to this great estate is now a prisoner of war in Germany.

At last the park wall came to an end, and shortly after I crossed the Leeds City Boundary by Alwoodley Gates.  By the time Allerton is reached the signs of a great city are unmistakeable – new housing estates, garages, shops, trams.  Some of the trams are green and some blue.  Most look very modern and runs swiftly and smoothly, along Chapeltown Rd and North Street.

Mile after mile of houses, shops, pubs etc.  It was now half past 12, and people were hurrying home to dinner, crashing along in their clogs.  Every tram was packed, engineers and girls hanging on to the steps and hand rails.  Saw a burnt-out cinema, but no other sign of damage.  Posters on a shop in Hebrew.  A lot of dirty lodging houses and everywhere scurrying crowds, trams and buses.

Cycled by way of New Briggate and Briggate into the main streets of the city through Boar Lane to City Square.  This must once have been quite a noble square, surrounded by the Post Office, tall office buildings, Mill Hill Chapel, and the enormous mass of the Queens Hotel, looking almost white compared with the other buildings.  But now most of the centre is filled with extraordinary ramshackle sheds which serve as waiting rooms for the trams which cross the square in every direction in continuous processions, and these sheds and the ARP shelters quite obscure the statue of the Black Prince.

Enquired of a Police Constable and then went to the Museum in Park Row, and found that half of it had been demolished by a bomb in 1941.  The remainder has been neatly patched, and although space is very restricted the collections are well–laid out, beautifully clean and well labelled.  The natural history gallery is very fine, although many specimens were destroyed in the raid.  Interesting to see the great tiger, whose photograph made such an impression on me 25 years ago in the old illustrated guide which we had at home.  Little archaeological material, but a room of minerals.  Saw Ricketts, Curator, who was very kind.  Told me about the bomb disaster – bomb penetrated main hall, destroyed front half of building and portico.  Nobody was hurt, although the caretaker’s wife and child were in the place at the time and were blown downstairs into the basement.  A great quantity of stuff was recovered, including a rare carved bone pin, Viking period, which was on loan from a church not far from Leeds and a gold Victorian Jubilee medal, although this was damaged.

Ricketts reminded me that he was on the short list for Colchester in 1926, and said how glad he was not to have got the job.  What a difference it would have made to us if he had.  And perhaps to him!  He retires in January and Dr Hodge is coming here from Halifax.  They say he is a very good man.  After the war a new museum is to be built as part of a proposed Civic Centre.

They specialise in “lunchtime concerts” here and the office is hung with signed photos of famous pianists and violinists etc.  Irene Schauer, Yehudi Menuhin.  These concerts are a great attraction.  Congratulated him on the remarkable recovery which his museum has made after bombing and he said that the City Engineer had been most helpful with labour and material.  Talking of museum finances here seemed to carry one into another world.  He appears to control his committee entirely, and reckons to dispose of all normal Committee meetings within 10 minutes – simply reports progress, and that’s that.  He spent over £300 to entertain the Museums Association when they came here, without any control at all.

He spoke of Kirkstall Abbey Museum, and introduced me to Miss Crowther, who is in charge, a middle-aged grey haired Yorkshire woman.  She is daughter of the previous Curator of Leeds.  Decided to stay until tomorrow in order to see Kirkstall.

An official came in from the Town Clerk’s Office, on some matter or other, and casually mentioned “You know my son’s lost?”  “Yes”, said R. “I had heard”.

Parked cycle in station, then went to Golden Lion, Briggate, on the corner of Southgate, and got a single room without any trouble.  Very pleasant place, though noisy from the trams and the railway which passes almost overhead.

Had tea, and then wandered out into the dirty, lighted streets, full of people and traffic, railway horses, brewery horses (as in Scotland, the breweries have only single horse drays, instead of pairs as in southern England).  Went to Coliseum Cinema in Cookridge St. to see “In Our Time”, under the impression that it was an English film.  Found that it was another of these ridiculous Russian things, everyone being incredibly good and noble except those “tinged with the black brush of Nazi-ism”.  However, I was immensely cheered to find that as a second item there was “The Harvest Shall Come” – that delightful film made up in Suffolk a few years ago.  The scenery glorious, the true Suffolk characters, the very authentic accents, the farm work all real and true.  Such a better film, so true, the wretched labourer after his 40 years work saying “Ah, well, things is sure to be better this time”.  Fancy showing this film now, at the very time when financiers and the riff raff of the Government plot to ruin the whole agricultural industry for a second time in less than half a century.  Don't suppose 10 people in the house understood it.

Back to hotel to bed depressed, although better inwardly.

Still horses going home, the lamps on the carts glittering, the shafts painted white.  There are more than 2,000 horses in this city, according to statistics of drivers and stablemen.

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