The Nostalgia column with Margaret Watson: Remembering Daw Green

End of an era: A brave new world was beckoning when this picture was taken in Thornton Street, Daw Green, after the bulldozers had done their work in clearing this part of Westtown in the slum clearance programme of the 1960s. The church on the left, Providence Independent Methodists, is still in operation.
End of an era: A brave new world was beckoning when this picture was taken in Thornton Street, Daw Green, after the bulldozers had done their work in clearing this part of Westtown in the slum clearance programme of the 1960s. The church on the left, Providence Independent Methodists, is still in operation.

RECENT articles about new housing estates built in the 1950s and 60s to replace thousands of houses in slum clearance areas, has raised some questions.

The most important one seems to be what happened to the name “Daw Green” when they built a new estate in Westtown?

Margaret Watson.

Margaret Watson.

Daw Green was an area of some historic interest having been where hundreds of Irish immigrants settled in the 1870s after fleeing the Irish Potato Famine.

Over the years their numbers grew and by the 1950s, many generations of people of Irish origin were living there.

But during the slum clearance programme, the name “Daw Green” was wiped off the map just as quickly as the houses standing on it.

There is one saving grace, however, a local contractor named his business after it, and a sign proudly announcing – “DAW GREEN CONTRACTS” – stands outside at the bottom of High Street.

Perhaps the owner had looked into local history and decided his business was technically in old Daw Green, and therefore would name it after this district.

But, I’d like to think he was a local lad with Daw Green connections and was determined that if the council wasn’t going to keep the name for posterity, he certainly would.

The name Daw Green was dropped – not by Kirklees Council, as some might think, – but by the old Dewsbury Borough Council, who should have known better, during their slum clearance programme.

Fears that the name Daw Green could eventually disappear, was raised by a Dewsbury councillor, of Irish origin, who had been raised in the village – Councillor Patrick Evers.

He used his Mayoral year in 1967 to draw attention to this omission and in his Mayoral speech pleaded that the old name of Daw Green be retained in some way.

All the councillors present knew he was proud to come from that district and he said he had half expected someone that evening to refer to him as the “Mayor of Daw Green”.

Councillor Evers, whose brother, Thomas, was also a councillor and a Mayor of Dewsbury, said he listened to councillors constantly referring to Thornhill, but he reminded them that Daw Green was once a village like Thornhill.

He was pleased some of the old street names had been retained like Tweedale and Hanover, and also the names of certain saints, but why had the name Dawgreen been allowed to disappear?

Councillor Evers, who was Chairman of the Libraries committee, said he had been looking through old archives and had discovered that the name Daw Green was originally known as Dawson’s Green, after a family called Dawson.

Records showed that the land had been sold in the 17th century by the Dawson family and then to the Walkers, and later for £700 to William Dawson, of Wakefield.

Councillor Evers said the loss of the name Daw Green was a source of deep regret to him, and he pleaded with those present to find some way of perpetuating a name which was over 250 years old.

Sadly, they did not, and as far as I know the name Daw Green ( sometimes referred to in one word as Dawgreen) has not been resurrected in any street names in that district.

The whole area is now known as Westtown, but the names of the other districts in the slum clearance programme like The Flatts and Eightlands were retained.

So, why was Dawgreen omitted? I think the answer could lie in a newspaper report published after the plan to clear the area was announced.

The headlines in the Reporter announcing the clearing away of 5,000 houses in Westtown and neighbouring areas, read:

“HISTORY IN THE MAKING – WESTTOWN WILL HAVE A NEW LOOK – THE COMPLETE RE-BUILDING OF DAW GREEN. THE FLATTS AND WESTTOWN DISTRICTS.”

A model of the proposed new district was on display in the town hall for the public to see how the new estate would look.

The published plans showed the council meant business and that there would be no “patching and making do”.

They said the district had a bad name and they were trying to get rid of it and make it into an area in which anyone could live happily.

The new estate would provide new homes, new roads and all the amenities that good living required, such as churches, shops, schools, public houses and clubs, all brought together to give an attractive appearance.

In the area to be cleared there were 118 shops and business premises, nine public houses, three clubs, two schools and six churches.

In the new plan there would be 24 shops, three public houses, three clubs, three schools and five churches.

So what happened to the amenities which disappeared? I hope to write more about these in forthcoming articles.

If you lived in Daw Green and have memories and pictures of it, please email me – tresham3@gmail.com