Village Web Site Forum

Jeff Dale
Barnsley, South Yorkshire
Saturday, May 10, 2014 20:21
My mum was a Sutton mill girl and i'm trying to find out about her life in Sutton
Can anyone put me in touch with someone who can tell me about the Mill Girls and the Hostel that the mill girls used to live in. My Mum was a mill girl.
See previous message 21st April 2014
Brenda Whitaker
Queensland Australia
Saturday, May 10, 2014 22:00
Hi Jeff - I don't have any specific information for you but if you look at the Glyn Whiteoak collection of photos in 'Gallery' there are 3 of the Hostel if you scroll well down. Recently Jean McClennon has added a photo of some of the girls and if you scroll through the gallery, perhaps by using the years your mum was in Sutton you could well uncover something of interest. I am pretty sure there are more photos of the 'mill girls' amongst them - you might just get lucky, it is worth a try.

Anne Matthews nee Currie
Sunday, May 11, 2014 17:31
Hello Jeff, there is quite a few photos of the girls at the Hostel around 1950s. Look through the 1960s/50s. Hope you find what your looking for.
Jeff Dale
Barnsley, South Yorkshire
Sunday, May 11, 2014 19:21
Thanks for the replies ladies, I have looked through the gallery and have seen some pictures that are similar to the ones my mother left.

I know its a long shot as most of the people who worked at that time will no longer be with us, but I was hoping to find out more about why people travelled so far to work in the mills?, was it from specific areas?, which mill did they work at? and what did the jobs actually entail?

I should have asked these questions years ago but like most people it doesn't seem interesting when you are younger.

Is there anyone still around who worked there at that time? If there is I suppose they would be around 85 or more now.


Jeff Dale
Barnsley, South Yorkshire
Sunday, May 11, 2014 19:24
Does anyone know how I go about submitting additional photographs for your

Paul Longbottom
Sunday, May 11, 2014 20:19
The recruitment of workers, particularly female, was a problem that faced the worsted mills in this area for decades. Female labour was particularly sought in the spinning departments & many would have been machine operatives. Many areas were targeted for potential recruits, particularly mining areas where male employment was high but female employment opportunities were low. All the mills were faced with the same problem & those that could offer hostels or modern housing, good working conditions & an active social program would obviously favour themselves in the race for employees. After the end of WW2 the net was cast wider & the mills engaged in extensive recruitment drives in Austria, Italy & Malta, also many displaced foreign nationals such as Poles found ready employment in the West Riding worsted trade.
The constant turnover of female workers was down to a number of factors including homesickness or better prospects elsewhere, the main factor however was that many simply left to get married thus forcing many employers to enforce minimum term contracts.
Paul Wilkinson
Sunday, May 11, 2014 21:10
Doris Riley's "A Home Spun Yarn" says this about the Hostel:

""In the colourful country of Sutton-in-Craven exists a wonderful hostel for girls employed at Messrs. Bairstow Mills. Only after repeated invitations did we fix a date for visiting" and what they found gave rise to the "greatest commendations for the splendidly equipped and efficiently managed hostel which houses about one hundred girls drawn from areas where there is a deplorable lack of openings". "

Jeff - you can submit additional photos by emailing scans to me.
Hazel Martell
Monday, May 12, 2014 22:18
Hi Jeff - I knew one of the Sutton Mill Girls who came from Bentley, near Doncaster, in the 1930s and lived at the hostel. Sadly she's no longer with us, but while her mind was still clear we got her to write down some of her memories of living in the hostel. IF - and I'm afraid it's a big if! - we can find them, I'll copy them out and post them on here for you.

By the way, I'm originally from Morley, near Leeds, which was just close enough for women to be bussed in every day from the Doncaster area in the 1950s. There used to be at least five coachloads of them every day to the mill near where I lived and as kids we used to go out and wave to them as they were setting off home after must have been an awful long day for them with at least an hour's travelling each way. Though the girls in the hostel were living away from home, at least they had a bit more time to call their own.
Andrew Monkhouse
Hanoi, Vietnam
Thursday, May 15, 2014 01:40
Jeff, my mum was a hostel girl from Hull. She told me many years ago that she responded to a newspaper advertisement to come and work at Bairstow's in Sutton. Must have seemed like a million miles away at the time!

You've probably already seen the images I had added to the gallery entitled "Bairstow's Mill and Hostel Girl 1950s/60s"
Paul Wilkinson
Friday, May 16, 2014 06:45
Terry Longbottom sent this scan from the 1920 T & M Bairstow brochure, which gives an insight into how the hostel came to be...

Brochure page about the hostel

Jeff Dale
Barnsley, South Yorkshire
Monday, May 19, 2014 21:20
Thank you all for your information it has been enlightening.

I didn't realise there were so many girls or that the hostel housed so many.

I agree that it must have seemed a long way away and quite an adventure to go and live away from home.

I have yet to find anyone who remembers the Naylor's though. Probably because they didn't have any children, but someone must remember them,

If you know anyone who are likely to remember them, please ask them for me.


Terry Longbottom
Saturday, May 24, 2014 11:15
Hi Jeff in the early 30's my mother came from Askern south Yorks to swell the ranks of the hostel that by this time it had expanded to hold twice to number of girls it originally held. Like many others she married a local lad and stayed on.
In the 1950ís my grandparents lived in the house opposite to no8 I was a frequent visitor and new the Naylors well as the route to and from school was up their side of the street, the sunny side, and their door opened directly onto the pavement, Mr Naylor would often take the sun in the doorway leaning on the doorjamb.
Hazel Martell
Saturday, May 24, 2014 16:32
Hi Jeff - as promised, here's a copy of Agnes's memories of being a Hostel Girl in the 1930s.

"March 27th 1933 I reach the age of 14 years old. In those days work was bad to get so my friend who lived in the same street asked the matron of a girls hostel at Sutton in Craven if I would be able to go there and work in the mills. I was given permission to go, but I must get vaccinated at once. I went to the doctors and was charged 2s 6d.

It was after Whitsuntide holidays when I left home, wearing my gym slip with ankle strap shoes, and going half fare on the bus. The matron was called Miss Cawood, she was very strict, but she looked after everyone.

We had lots of strict rules, such as no girl under seventeen could go out with boys. We had to be in by eight o'clock at night, lights out at nine, woe betide anyone who had a light on after nine o'clock. We were forced to go to church or chapel once on a Sunday. We had to go because Miss Cawood would stop you anytime and ask you who preached or what was the lesson. Everyone was looked after very well all the time. I was pleased to attend all the classes in the evenings, we had a dance teacher, one night, a singing teacher. I was thrilled with those as I was always wanting to dance. Once a year Miss Cawood put a pantomime on and every one under seventeen had to be in it. I was thrilled with that and I had some very good parts in them, especially I did a clown's acrobatic dance. The panto was every night after work, Saturday night all parents were invited and their tea was provided.

Bedrooms were for two or three persons. Woe betide us if we did not make our beds before we went to work. Matron wrote on our bedroom door, locked it and said SEE ME. Then we were on punishment duty, such as stay in for a week, peel potatoes for cook, sweep a drive, especially when leaves were falling.

Dr Sheard was our doctor.

Girls over seventeen lived in the top wing and they were allowed boyfriends. There were two small rooms where they could sit with their boys, but there must be more than one couple at a time in the room. On a Sunday they had a rota to take their boys in the room for tea, of course there had to be four or six.

Girls under seventeen had a rota to clock all late comers in. We had to sit in the top hostel among all the older girls and their boys and we had a book, pencil and clock to write late comers in. At holiday times were were taken home in Thompson's coaches. They were kept by Sutton Baths. Thompsons were also coal merchants. They took us as near as they could to our homes. Then they picked us all up at the end of our holidays. We did not have to pay any fare.

Living in hostel like that was very good as it taught us to look after ourselves. We were taken very good care of. Our board money was 14s 6d per week when you received full wages, but we all had to have 5s 0d spending money, we had to either save half of it in a bank, or send half to our mums.

The mothers of the Sutton boys did not like the hostel girls coming, they said we only went there to take their boys away from then. That is what happened, a lot of hostel girls married and settled down in Sutton. There are still a few around, some in their nineties. Quite a few girls were very good for Sutton, as they were on various committees, and organised all kinds of activities for the benefit of all the villagers."

Written by Agnes Gill (nee Hemsley), who was born at Bentley, near Doncaster, in 1919, and died in Crosshills in 2012. She married Douglas Gill from Lumb Mill in December 1939. By that time she was no longer living in the hostel, but instead was sharing a house with two other girls, so maybe there was an upper age limit for staying at the hostel - I never thought to ask her...

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