Hessle in 1870

Hessle Present and Thirty Years Ago

John Barron, 1870

Just three and thirty years ago, when I was but a child

‘Twas in the spring of thirty seven, the weather it was mild

We meet so many changes as this world we journey through

Just at this time, a lovely spot, ‘twas Hessle met my view.

The changes which have taken place between that time and this

To note them down, if memory save, may not be much amiss

Some people they may grumble at a chronicler so poor

A man’s a man for all that, tho’ a beggar at the door.

The time which now I mention, no railway was begun

To take you then from town to town three coaches there were run

But now we have an iron road, such running to and fro

Oh what a mighty difference since thirty years ago.

Now when I through the village go, and see what time has done

The buildings which have sprung around, a generation gone

The once familiar faces which have disappeared from sight

And gone I hope for ever into everlasting light.

A sadness steals upon me, when I reflect upon the scene

To see the places built upon, tho’ not the village green

Where I have played and run about, no bobby to annoy

I almost feel inclined to I was still a boy.

And when at church I look around for those who once were there

I look in vain, not one in ten who used to come to prayer

But in the yard I there can see how many lay below

Oh what a mournful difference since thirty years ago.

There are a few old faces left which then were known to me

Our good old reverend vicar always kind and free

Also our skilful doctor, he is now put upon the shelf

He has laid aside his business to attend upon himself.

These two are always qualified to claim respect from me

Because was any person ill, they both were there to see

The one with consolation, the other with medicine sent

I hope the Lord will both reward for both had good intent.

But in tradesmen and in farmers such a thinning there has been

There are still a few old labourers appear upon the scene

But of the many now I see, how very few I know

Oh what a mighty difference since thirty years ago.

Now what was once old Spicer’s farm is like a little town

Look around you which way you will there's buildings up and down

And what was once old Joel’s little garden on the Weir,

Is built upon, and let unto the cottar and the squire.

A few old hands here still are left if I make free to mention

I do not wish to give offence it is not my intention

There may be some among them may take it rather ill

They had better swallow this one or take a larger pill.

There is one old noted farmer still clinging unto life

He has reached the age of fourscore, three times he took a wife

They each hare dead and buried he says it must be so

Oh what a mighty difference since thirty years ago.

But from the ladder of fame here are some in the mire

A lot they are clinging and scrambling still higher

If they saw it as I do I think they would stop

The farther they’re up the farther they drop.

Some tradesmen are grasping, I see two or three

And none more conspicuous than those selling tea

You can’t find their shop, you knew it at first

Like the frog in the fable, they swell till they burst.

Of the builders and joiners we have reason to complain

They build, but not for comfort, ‘tis more for getting gain

They build houses with an eye to profits they can draw

Oh what a mighty difference since thirty years ago.

If you wished to buy a little milk, when I was but a boy

You then could buy it pure without buying the alloy

We now have got some cowmen, the dress of Cromwell’s rump

And what we now get from them, one half is from the pump.

As seen from the western hill, the village church and spire

It is a green and fertile as any in the shire

Its beauties have attracted such a swarm of other scum

That for its old inhabitants there’s scarcely any room.

When I was here a stripling, here then was work for all

The scum, here before mentioned they swallow up it all

Like Pharaoh’s hungry kine their condition still is low

Oh what a mighty difference since thirty years ago.

But still we’ve cause for thankfulness for believing we enjoy

And many changes for the better since I was here a boy

Thanks to a gallant Mayor who leads the advance guard

He cleans away all obstacles with which the ground is marred.

We used to probe in darkness, we are lighted now with gas

The inhabitants were ignorant he says educate the mass

An institute for reading and lectures to improve

We’re indebted to the Mayor for all this work of love.

For this light and education and improvement in our street,

The cleaning and the drainage to keep up clean and sweet,

And several other blessings to our gallant friend I throw

I see a mighty difference since thirty years ago.

It is a land of plenty if you have the means to live,

If I’d an independence and a little left to give,

I could spend my days in happiness in this pleasant little spot

And very near the world beside, forgetting and forgot.

We have three jolly butchers but not all in a row,

They have meat of first rate quality as any men I know,

Likewise a first rate baker, of bread he makes the best,

What makes me so confident, I’ve put it to the test.

We’ve a sprinkling of Gentry whose qualities are good,

I am not up in the peerage to say how runs their blood,

That stands for very little with all men such as me,

By the fruit that I see borne I put value on the tree.

I’d like to see all men of wealth assist the poor in need,

To lend a helping hand when down, he is a friend indeed,

God grant that all our wealthy men to this truth will attend,

He that assists the poor unto the Lord doth lend.

This picture here of Hessle, both the present and the past,

Although if I be spared it may not be the last,

As long as I the pencil wield, the truth I’ll try to draw,

I see a mighty difference since thirty years ago.