Redhill Nottingham: The Redhill Windmill

Who knew that there was once a windmill in Redhill? I once saw it described as being located at the ‘bottom of The Mount’.I felt this a bit unlikely as The Mount began simply as a long driveway from Mansfield Road to the two large homes still situated at the top of the road, overlooking Redhill Cemetery. Mansfield Road is neither particuarly high up as in somewhere you might expect to find a windmill situated.

An acquaintance located the actual windmill site for me on an old OS map and it appears to have stood roughly around the area of the extension of Redhill Cemetery came to be. This would make sense being a little higher up and more exposed to the elements.

There are no pictures of the Redhill windmill that I am aware of though a little detail of the individuals who ran it still exist.

There was also a second windmill not too far away on Mill Lane which leads from Cross Street near the top of Galway Road. The building still remains as a private home I believe and is also marked on the map.

The map, dated from around the late 1890s I believe, contains some other interesting detail of our locality. The heavier dark hatched line running right to left near the top right of the map is what became the ‘twichell’ which still runs alongside Redhill Academy between Stanhope Road and Stanhope Crescent. In those days it carried on in a straight line from Arnold to Mansfield Road, Redhill and emerged opposite The Mount. Above it are orchards containing cherries and pears I believe. A modern-day link to them remains in the naming of Cherry Close adjacent the school and the line of around twenty pear trees which remained in the school grounds as ‘Pear Tree Avenue’. The area in general was well known for cherry growing in particular.

Mansfield Road and Arnold Lane/Oxclose Lane are both clearly visible on the map, as is Cross Street, probably called ‘Cross Lane’ around that time. Some locals also termed it ‘White Hart Lane’ as it indeed did represent a lane from Arnold to the original White Hart coaching inn demolished in the 1960s to be replaced by its predecessor built on the land behind it. At one point both buildings were extant.

Mansfield Road itself had previous names also in the form of ‘Sandy Lane’ as it was previously called by virtue of the sandy soil present in some parts of Redhill. Much further back in years it was termed the ‘rubeam rodam’, (red road). And so we see some of the origins of the naming of Red Hill/Redhill.

Leapool, Redhill, Nottingham

The Leapool area of Redhill, Nottingham, showing Mansfield Road, in two images from the 1960s. Credit to Rachel Hawker, a member of the Hawker family who owned . W. Hawker & Son garage at Leapool. One picture shows Rachel’s aunt waving from the forecourt of the garage with a backdrop of Mansfield Road leading south up to Arch Bridge. The other has a host of interest as it shows the area before what some call the ‘Redhill roundabout’, actually Leapool, was built.

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Leapool, Redhill, (Image: Rachel Hawker)

At that time it was basically a T junction with the same route to the left towards Mansfield and what was the original A614 Ollerton road before the present road, built in the 1960s. The road still stands there off the roundabout, enshrouded in trees, gated off and with some road markings still visible, lending a slightly eery feel. It remains walkable.

The far end of the road meets the present Lime Lane which I believe was once known as Lambley Road. The road currently bends to the right, then left down to the A614. Prior to this it was possible to drive directly on in a straight line to the A614 and over the farmland in a straight line to the A60, quite near Lamins Lane. The road, known as Little Lime Lane, was closed many years ago due to a prevalence of accidents.

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Hawker’s Garage, Redhill, Nottingham, (Image: Rachel Hawker)

One of the other notable points in the picture was the old AA box which can be seen at the junction. There was also a transport cafe behind and to the side of Hawkers garage. Standing there now is the Banyan Tree restaurant, which was formerly a Little Chef.

Some may wonder why Leapool roundabout was built so large for it’s quite some size for the amount of exits it possesses? The reason is that it had orginally been intended as a park and ride scheme. One which would have a loop road over the fields in the direction of Bestwood Estate to link up with Edwards Lane, the ring road and the city. The notion of a park and ride in the area, as we see, is by no means a new one!

Rachel dated the picture of her aunt as 1966. I’m not exactly sure of dates for the various changes in the road layout but if asked, would say the early 1960s at some point

Redhill, Nottingham

Iiving in Redhill, Nottingham for a great deal of my life has provided a keen local historical interest in the area. It struck me that whilst writing about it variously, those words have never been collated in one place. This new Tears of a Clown category is to serve that purpose and to document Redhill whist hopefully adding new items for those with an interest. It has long felt to me that Redhill’s history deserves its stories being told. I post here from my own recollections and those of others anecdotally. In addition from readings over the years. Contributions and comments from others are very much welcomed and appreciated.

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Mansfield Road, Red Hill, Nottingham (Image; unknown)

Football on St. Mary’ s Rec

I love this picture of my old school’s football team appearing on St. Mary’s ‘Rec’ at Redhill. Memories of wearing that red shirt a good few times, Denis Law-style with the cuffs pulled down over my hands and giving the ‘Lawman’s’ single fist salute after scoring and dreaming that I was playing for Scotland. In the background is St. Mary’s Church which has stood on that spot for a mind-boggling thousand years. The church around which the town was built.

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I recall one particular sports session at school where we were due to play football and a few of us turned up without kit as there was a foot of snow on the field. The games master who was very much a 1970s stereotype with his nylon track suit and bullying nature threw a pair of gym shorts each at us and made us go out and play bare-chested with no shoes or socks in deep snow and sub-zero temperatures. We survived – thought it was a bit of a laugh actually (except when you caught the rock hard size 3 football on your bare flesh). I’m just imagining what the authorities would make of that now.

The rec was the scene of many. a multiple-hour game of football between me, my pals and basically anybody who passed by. We played in all weathers in much worse conditions even than pictured I remember being engrossed in many-a-side games on the evenings in the late sixties that both Celtic and Manchester won their European Cups, running home hell-for-leather for a place in front of the black and white TV at kick-off time to watch the games with dad. Probably with a bowl of mum’s Scotch broth in front of me. Those were the days.

Arnold Local History Group

Looking to the future with one eye on the past.

For those interested in history, I’ve taken charge of an overhaul of my local history group’s website. The Arnold Local History Group is an established and growing organisation that offers education courses, events and exhibitions based on the town of Ernehale ‘The place of Eagles’, as it was formerly known.

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The Old North Road of ‘immemorial antiquity’. Mansfield Road, Redhill, Nottingham pictured in 1925

Mansfield Road (above) which travels through our borough and close to my home fulfilled the role of joining the North and the South of England together and is arguably one of the oldest roads, if not the most ancient, in the United Kingdom. Almost certainly, a Stone Age animal path wending its way through Sherwood Forest originally it rose to prominence and importance as the main road from London to York. There are records of a 9th Century Danish Viking invasion marching from York to the city of Nottingham four miles to the south along the predecessor of the byway and accounts of William the Conqueror travelling what later became known as ‘The Turnpike Road’.

The site has some unique and high quality content for anyone with an interest in or link to the town and thereabouts or for those with a liking for history in general. The Arnold Local History Group site is available at:

ARNOLD LOCAL HISTORY GROUP

Regular updates can also be found on the ALHG Twitter feed:

https://twitter.com/ArnoldHistory

Nottinghamshire History: Mordecai Sherwin, ‘Nowt Fears Me’

The name of Mordecai Sherwin, a local and internationally-known sportsman of his era was known to me from doing a little research and reading on the golden age of cricket in the nineteenth century and the county of Nottinghamshire’s part in it. I recently came across his name once more as being a former mine host of The Grove Hotel at Daybrook, Nottingham, approximately a mile down the road from my own home just a few minutes north in Redhill. The Grove is sadly no longer. Never a public house that I visited and now earmarked for demolition, it did however have an interesting cave system underneath the bars and a significant slice of history surrounding it. On reading that Nottinghamshire-born Mordecai was at one time the landlord of The Grove, I decided to take a little look at his story.

Mordecai Sherwin

Mordecai Sherwin

The man himself not only played professional cricket for Nottinghamshire and England but also appeared in goal for Notts County Football Club before retiring to become a cricket umpire and publican. In the mid-1880s, Mordecai was in his pomp and feted as arguably the leading wicket-keeper in the land and more than useful batsman. This was all achieved despite possessing a less than sylph-like 17 stone frame coupled with a reasonably modest height of 5ft 9ins for his bulk!

In the age of distinction between professionals and gentlemen (amateurs generally from the upper classes) in cricket, with few working-class professionals being bestowed the honour of leading their county, Mordecai was apparently the very last professional captain until many years later in the mid-1930s.

 

The famous Nottinghamshire back-stop was also well-known as something of a joker on the pitch it is said. Wisden, in choosing it’s wicket keeper of the year for 1891 said of him thus:

‘Always in the best of spirits, and never discouraged, however much the game may be going against his side, Sherwin is one of the cheeriest and pluckiest of cricketers.’

The almanac also added:

‘In point of style behind the wicket he is more demonstrative than his Lancashire rival, but, though the applause and laughter of the spectators may occasionally cause him to go a little too far, he has certainly never done anything to really lay him open to censure.’

Mordecai is further described as being of ‘great bulk’ but nevertheless ‘wonderfully quick on his feet’ and capable of acts of extreme brilliance behind the stumps.

Giving further colour to Wisden’s review, Mordecai is also immortalised by E.V. Lucas, humourist, essayist, playwright, biographer and publisher in his ‘Cricket All His Life’  book, as follows:

Moredecai Sherwin, the famous wicket-keeper in the great period, and as leader of the side in 1887 and 1888 the last of Nottinghamshire’s professional captains, was a very notable man … When interviewed … by Captain Holden at Trent Bridge as a potential wicket-keeper, he had been asked if he was afraid. “Nowt fears me,” he replied.  He followed by keeping wicket for Nottinghamshire for eighteen years with a remarkable record.  Mordecai (and I think Sherwin must have been the only cricketer with that name) was a rotund man of mirthful character and a leading member of the Nottingham Glee Club, which used to meet at the Black Boy to sing and be hearty together.’

The theme of Mordecai as entertainer persists with tales of him offering renditions of Oh Dem Golden Slippers and performing various somersaults and jigs to the amusement of others at social events!

As has been stated, the Nottinghamshire man was also a hit between the posts with Notts County Football club in the late 1970s and early 1880s. From an age when it was customary to attempt to bundle the custodian into the net along with the ball, Wikipedia informs us of a memorable incident. Young and sturdily built Joseph Lofthouse (an apt name for this particular event) of Blackburn Rovers decided to have something of a run at Mordecai but unhappily for him rebounded harmlessly off the Notts goalie with Mordecai stating nonchalantly: ‘Young man, you’ll hurt yourself if you do that again’.  Not to be deterred, Lofthouse attempted another physical charge on the last line of defence with Sherwin, belying his size, dancing deftly to one side and watching the young Blackburn forward crash painfully into the goalpost.

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The Grove Hotel, (right) Daybrook, Nottinghamshire, C. 1900

Finally, an interesting link has also been suggested between Mordecai Sherwin and no less than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A strong theory exists that Sherwin, along with fellow Nottinghamshire team-mate Frank (T. E.) Shacklock was the inspiration behind the Edinburgh writer’s classic Sherlock Holmes character with the legend ‘caught Sherwin, bowled Shacklock’ appearing with monotonous regularity on Notts’ scorecards in the 1890s. The two surnames being amalgamated to form the name of super-sleuth, Sherlock.

Mordecai Sherwin was most definitely a sportsman characteristic of a different age. An unusual sporting hero by today’s standards and criteria but nonetheless a high achiever and a success in two professional disciplines in a great era of professional sports.

The Back Twitchell to Redhill

The word ‘twitchell’ appears to be a peculiarly Nottingham word. I have never heard its like elsewhere. It denotes an alleyway, a wynd, a ginnel or whatever is the favoured word in your part of the world.

My parents’ house when I was growing up had a short twitchell next to it which was a short walkway from Redhill through to a small housing estate leading to Arnold. It was unremarkable and only characterised by the six to seven-foot private hedges that so many people used to own in the 1960s lining it on either side.

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Nearby ‘Back Twitchell’ had much more of interest. It lined, as it still does, an outer perimeter of Redhill School. The other side had the one-after-the-other ends of back gardens of the neat council semis from a nearby crescent. Half way along the twitchell lived Ted, the car mechanic with his higgledy-piggledy little wooden workshop at the end of his yard. A trusty blue overall which was mostly oil and a French beret at a jaunty angle. A big bear of a man, a former RAF serviceman with a long bushy beard and always a kindly word for us young laddies – especially if he knew our dads. For decades Ted had a row of motors in various states of decay and disablement along the black ash twitchell. We knew it was the end when all those old motorised carcasses were finally strapped up and towed away…

The twitchell was also used for conkering, hide and seek, practical jokes on passers by, football, letting off fireworks and many other childhood pastimes. Then came a certain age and girls…

All grown and at work, still that twitchell persisted as a short cut through from a pint or two in Arnold back to Redhill, under the stars last thing at night, considering the world. Halley’s Comet came along and I remember standing transfixed for several minutes on that old twitchell of my childhood, looking up at this wonder in the skies from the inky blackness and thinking of the several decades I’d tramped that familiar, dark ashy path.

Most of all I remember the wonderful distant childhood sight of my dear dad walking home from Arnold during the afternoon. Always clad in an immaculate navy blue suit incongruous with the overgrown old twitchell, head held high and his unmistakable, slightly nautical gate earned from many years at sea in the Merchant Navy. As he got closer and smiled at me I would see the familiar sprig of hawthorn he would always pick from the hedges and pop in the corner of his mouth. I would give everything I owned to see that sight just one more time on that little pathway.

The Ram Inn, Redhill, Nottingham

The area of Nottinghamshire in which I live, Redhill, has seen quite a few changes over the years. Like many other places it has lost a few small businesses along the way, including a grocery store, a newsagent, the original post office and an excellent fish and chip shop. Two constants over the years though have been it’s two very old and neighbouring pubs, The Ram Inn and The Wagon and Horses which both stand prominently on the main Mansfield Road .

Just recently I have noticed that ‘The Ram’ has been closed up tight, boarded off and with workers cabins in the car park. It’s not clear whether this was to be a much-needed refurbishment as I’ve  been assured the old public house has closed it’s doors for good and that it’s future is apparently as an eighty-bedroom residential care home. Contradicting this there are signs outside which indicate that is to reopen as part of a chain of pub restaurants. Who knows the truth but it raises the thorny situation of the future of so many British pubs.

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Both of Redhill’s pubs are of a considerable vintage. The Waggon and Horses was reputedly built in 1827 as a coach house for the main arterial road north it stands upon while the The Ram is a few years it’s senior being built in 1789. I am informed that both pubs these days have a shared owner who has decided to close one of them. I dare hazard a guess that The Waggon has been kept because of it’s historic coaching inn past but that’s just conjecture on my part.

Over the years I had been a customer of both pubs. Before their lamented disappearance, the two main local breweries had been represented in the two pubs, The Wagon carrying Home Ales beer from it’s Daybrook premises just a mile down the road whilst The Ram sold the less popular Shipstones ales made at The Star Brewery at Basford approximately just three miles away. Customers tended to go the pub whose beer they preferred. Well into the 1970s, The Waggon still retained its stables that had been originally used to replenish stage coaches with new horses in order to climb up the ‘interminable rise of Redhill’ northwards. Latterly the stables housed the pub’s toilets and in another area had swings for children as I recall.

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Local landmarks: The Wagon and Horses and The Ram Inn

Latterly, The Ram had slipped so far backwards it was difficult to know what could be done to improve the place. It was a very good example of the typical ruination of a decent pub after the separate bars were gutted to make one large area.  Together with a considerable extension to the rear, largely to woo potential diners, the atmosphere was barn-like and it also looked worn, tired and dated with it eighties-style former renovation.

Although only minutes walk from my home I have rarely used either pub in many years so I can understand how it has been difficult to retain the profitability of both establishments. I would have loved to support my local community’s public houses if either had been more to my taste. Typically, about once a year I’ll take an annual stroll up the road to see if anything has changed. With both pubs being in such close proximity it was always easy to pop round next door if one was a little quiet. My usual experience has been to enter The Ram through it’s side door, find it almost completely deserted and walk straight out of the front door and on to The Wagon. In truth though, neither pub seem like the nice old local pubs that I used to visit years ago. Times have changed and I’d sooner go to the trouble and expense of taking a return bus ride into the city where I can have a quiet drink in somewhere with a little ‘life’ in it and enjoy a good range of more interesting drinks such as some of the continental lagers and quality ciders. I don’t feel particularly pleased to say that and I’d love to have seen the old Redhill pubs back in their former guise and enjoy a walk up the road to enjoy a drink with a neighbour or two in a proper ‘local’ pub. It’s all a bit of shame.

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‘The Ram’

The news about The Ram Inn is hardly isolated. So many of our old pubs are disappearing forever and things will never be the same again. Another local pub, The White Hart which was an incredibly popular and busy pub years ago, now lies forlorn and graffiti-laden, doubtless awaiting demolition and redevelopment for retail purposes. It’s last apparition as part of a mediocre restaurant chain now a predictable memory. I never would have in the past foreseen the day when the likes of that place was no longer.

The Ram Inn lies in sullen darkness at the moment after over two-hundred years of quenching locals’ and passing travellers’ thirsts. I hope it’s not all over for this well-known local landmark. What a dire state of affairs our local community pubs find themselves in in 2010. The biggest shame is that should the likes of The Ram Inn close down it would do so largely unloved and unlamented. It was not always thus.

When 20th Century Fox came to Redhill, Nottingham

A little piece of local history today from a story related to me by an elderly neighbour and family friend in Redhill many years ago who is sadly, no longer with us. It concerns a Mr. George Brough, the owner of the Brough motorcycle company of Nottingham, manufacturers of the legendary ‘Brough Superior’ motorcycle. George significantly at one juncture also held the world speed record for the motorcycle of around 130mph. Bikes ran in George’s blood as his father, George senior had developed the Brough name into two-wheeled legend and passed the business on to George junior.

George Brough on one his Brough Superior bikes

George Brough. (Image: bbc.co.uk)

Just around the corner from my home in Redhill, Nottingham is situated a small cul-de-sac enshrouded in trees called Pendine Close which is accessible directly from the main A60, Mansfield Road. The close contains a small handful of good-sized homes which were built, on memory, in the 1960s. An attractive address and situation certainly but seemingly otherwise unremarkable, However, it’s the very large original home at the end of the close, ‘Pendine House’ in what was originally its own land, that is of interest being the former home of George Brough.

Pendine House was named by George after Pendine Sands, the seven-mile long beach on the shores of Carmarthen Bay on the south coast of Wales. This was the area famously chosen by Brough for his motorcycle record attempts.

Interestingly, it was said that George was connected with some extremely well-known friends due to his fame in the motorcycle industry of the day. My late friend and neighbour related to me that none other than Irish playwright and critic, George Bernard Shaw was a friend of Brough’s and a regular visitor to Pendine House. He also told tale, quite casually, that George was a friend of the then boss of 20th Century Fox and thus counted several top Hollywood movie stars as friends who became visitors to his attractive home in Redhill. One quoted to me was the huge star and master actor, Orson Welles, who was apparently a good friend of George.

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Visitors: Welles and Shaw

Another famous name, and a well-known association, was T. E. Lawrence, the famed ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, who would visit Redhill and take Brough Superiors for a high-speed spin around the local country lanes. It is recorded that Lawrence died on a Superior. It is fascinating to me to conceive of these world figures as visitors to a home a minute or two from my own front door.

According to Wikipedia (no written evidence available) George Brough attained the world record in 1928 in Arpajon, France. The same source offers the following about Lawrence’s demise:

“A few weeks after leaving the service, aged 46, he was fatally injured in a motorcycle accident in Dorset, close to his cottage, Clouds Hill, near Wareham (now run by the National Trust and open to the public). The accident occurred because of a dip in the road that obstructed his view of two boys on their bicycles; he swerved to avoid them, lost control and was thrown over the handlebars of his motorcycle. He died six days later.”

George Brough with Lawrence of Arabia

George Brough (standing) chats with T. E. Lawrence ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ outside his motorcycle factory on Hayd Road, Sherwood, Nottingham. (Image: bbc.co.uk)

From available sources, it appears that George Brough, described as a ‘larger than life’ character, led an exciting and colourful life before passing at seventy-nine years old. Fame, fortune and furiously fast motorcycles were his life. He certainly brought a little colour into the local community in Redhill too.

Les Skinner

It’s a running anniversary of sorts for me tomorrow (more of later). For that reason it seems like a very opportune time to remember an old friend and fellow runner who is sadly missed by all that knew him. This was my humble tribute to him at the time. Two and a half years on, this gentleman still remains an inspiration to me… 

Les Skinner ,who passed away on the 6th September 2005

A celebration of my friend Les.

It was with great sadness I heard the news of the passing of Les Skinner recently, an old friend of mine and a great friend to many at Redhill Road Runners and of the club itself. I felt it important to write a few words about him at this time and although this is a sad occasion, I shall attempt to relate some of the lighter times with Les – just as I believe he would have wanted.

Many of you will know that Les was a founding member of Redhill Road Runners, having begun running with a group of colleagues from his then place of work, Jessops, in the city of Nottingham. The rest is history as they say with the group evolving into a genuine and successful running club over the years and into the present day.

I was first ensnared by Les’s powers of persuasion in the early nineties. I would notice him when out running through our favourite woods at Bestwood, we’d shout a cheery hello when passing each other and on one particular day I saw him in the distance and actually managed to catch up with him, (no mean feat in those days!) We chatted a little, running alongside, and he duly invited me along to the Redhill Road Runners club. So numerous were the occasions when out running afterwards with Les I would observe him doing this with other runners. It was at this time I first realised his great pride in the club that he had been a founding member of.

One of the many reasons I enjoyed running and training with Les was simply because he was great company. Out there on the country lanes and through the fields and woods, a tough fifteen-mile run would seem to pass in the blink of an eye with him chatting away and laughing together with you. All that knew Les will recount his mischievous but good-natured humour. One of the attributes I always loved about him was his bright-eyed enthusiasm he brought to everything, it was impossible not to be motivated by him when he spoke, he was one of those rare people who make all things seem possible.

Les, back row, 2nd left, with his beloved Redhill Road Runners

Although Les lived away from his native Cornwall for many years his love for his home county never diminished. He remained very much a Cornishman and proud of it. One of the many yarns he would relate would be the story of him being born in a castle down there in that loveliest of counties – it was true too!

There were so many humourous times with Les, to recount them all would take up pages and pages, from the Nike ‘Shoe Mountain’ which was his pride and joy at home to the story of when he broke ranks, leading at the very vanguard of the London Marathon at the mass start. Perhaps he would be inclined to inform you about the latest of his many and varied ‘injuries’ which would thwart his latest plan for world veteran running domination! Les told me once he ran part of a marathon with Australian champion Steve Monaghetti and I believe him. Make no mistake though and casting jokes aside for a moment, Les was a special and gifted runner. Those who ran with him like I did knew that.

It seems almost churlish to mention facts and figures in the context of a light-hearted man like Les but I would just like to add that his best time for a marathon was no less than 2.49 – almost international class. Without being dramatic many of us will remember him as being a tough and determined character, well suited to the rigours and hardships of long-distance running. He also had a great, natural inbuilt talent for the sport too, of that there can be no doubt.

Latterly after Les contracted his illness I would still see him out on the roads and trails, not running but power walking (probably faster than many could run actually). This to me was the mark of Les Skinner – a true warrior athlete who NEVER gave in.

I’d like at this point to acknowledge all the considerable work and dedication that Les and his wife Sheila, who I am proud to also call a friend, have offered to the Redhill club over the years. I’m sure that you will all share this moment with me to offer our condolences to Sheila and his two daughters Tina and Kerry who Les leaves behind.

No more shall I see that familiar running style of Les with that distinctive left arm curling outwards as he raced along – was this man one of the most easily recognised runners from a distance you have ever seen?

What’s more I’m going to miss it.

Thanks for being a friend Les, you will be very sadly missed.

Stuart

For anyone interested in joining the club that Les helped found, please go to:

Redhill Road Runners

Nottinghamshire: Old Bestwood

Bestwood Colliery Village is a small community in Nottinghamshire that grew around a coal mine. The mine was first sunk in 1875 by the Lancaster family giving the mine its original name of the ‘Lancaster Drift’. To provide for the people coming to work in the mine, the Lancaster’s built sixty-four houses, an Institute, Offices, a school and an Ironworks. Before the colliery the Bestwood area was a peaceful place full of woodland only, with few people living there. There were two mills nearby on the River Lean that housed child workers but very few other people. Up to 2000 men came to work in the mine; many of them came from nearby areas like Arnold and Hucknall. The Colliers Pad, where miners walked to work from Redhill still exists. The winding house that used to lower the men down into the mine still stands. It has a large engine inside which would operate the ‘cage’ lowering miners down below ground. It would also bring the coal to the surface.

The original main street, now called Park Road, looks much the same with rows of miner’s cottages along the street. Small homes that stand back to back with each other. The miners would pay rent to the colliery owners to live in the houses. In the old days there were no buses out of Bestwood. To get to Nottingham a train had to be taken which would take an hour to travel the six miles. The ‘Institute’ is an interesting building. It is now called The Bestwood Hotel but was built as a reading room, a billiard room and a drinking place. Women were not allowed in! It was also used as a morgue following pit accidents.

The children of the village would play games in the surrounding woods. They would go to a favourite place called ‘The Sandholes’ and play ‘whip and top’, hide and seek and rounders. The children would go to Sunday school in the morning and afternoon. On Sunday evening they would go to church too. If they missed church The Reverend Hawthorne would call at their house the next day to find out why! The big treat every year for the children was the visit to Bestwood Lodge. Bestwood Lodge is a large hall which used to be the home of the Duke of St. Albans. Many famous people have visited the Lodge including King Edward VII. Moneyed visitors would come to hunt deer in the Bestwood Estate. Roundabouts and decorated haycarts and wagons would be at the special day. There would be a tea party and music provided by the Bulwell Salvation Army. The people who lived in Bestwood were quite poor and worked very hard. Most of them seemed to have liked living in the village though as there was regular work for the men and the village was surrounded by lovely countryside. Bestwood had most of the things there that people needed and people would not travel outside the village very often. Today parts of Bestwood look are unchanged from those days. There are though lots of new houses making the village much larger. The past is never very far away however in Bestwood Colliery village.

My Memories of Bestwood as a boy

I never lived in Bestwood but as a boy would play long days in the woods with my friends from Redhill and Arnold. We would take the walk up Colliers Pad and play all day in the woods making dens, climbing trees, and collecting chestnuts and conkers. The Game Keeper lived at Alexandra Lodges in the middle of the woods. Whenever he would see us boys he would shoo us off by pointing his shotgun at us! We would run away but always come back the next day!

I remember the first day my friends and I ‘discovered’ Bestwood Colliery Village. We had walked further than usual and saw the small cottages of the village in the distance. Going on to explore we passed the old pit gates, (the mine was still open). The first thing I noticed was a ‘pit pony’ tied up to one of the cottage’s front door knockers! The village looked so different to what we boys knew. We all lived with our families in comparatively new and smart semi-detached houses provided by the council but these little homes looked very odd. They were tiny and the bricks they were built from were blackened by years of standing near the mine.

I loved Bestwood as a boy and still do. It was a huge big playground for we boys and after playing there most of the day we would head home for Redhill in near darkness with the owls in the trees hooting. Once along Colliers Pad we would see the street lights of Redhill beckoning and warm homes and teas to come. Nowadays I still go there but I see very few people enjoying the woods. It’s very quiet. I often wish some of the kids nowadays would have the fun I did there as a youngster as it was a place where dreams were made and friendships bonded. It still looks very similar to when I was a boy and it will always have a special place in my heart.