Wednesday, December 31, 2008

End of a Year - End of a High Street Icon

At the end of another year it is time for a brief pause to look back. I see, with not a little incredulity, that it is over four months since I posted to my blog. That was not was intended when I started but that seems what has happened - clearly the basis of a New Year resolution here ! But, anyone who follows by site - and I know from your mail that there are many of you - will have seen many additions that, I hope, have whet the appetite for Beeston's history.

It has been pleasing to be able to work with several people over the year - some who provided useful material for me to explore and build a story around - and others who provided ready made articles that needed little more than converting to the site format. Several more important and interesting pieces are already in the pipeline - as well as material from my own research. Just keep watching the News page during 2009 !

But nationally, amongst the doom and gloom that we find around us, one old classic is about to vanish for ever - although, sadly for many, it vanished from Beeston about 40 years ago.

Frank Woolworth opened his first "5 & 10" store in America in 1879 and brought the formula to Britain not quite 100 years ago in November 1909. In just over 10 years there were over 500 F W Woolworth stores, with their familiar frontages and island-counter interiors throughout the UK.

It was a little later - perhaps the early 1930s - when one opened in Beeston but, as the photograph shows it fitted into the street scene with ease.

Situated on the site that is now occupied by Superdrug, between Acacia Walk and Mill Yard and opposite what was then the Conservative Club - now Boots - it occupied a prime location on Beeston High Road.

Many from my era will remember it. It was a place where adults and children alike were welcome to browse its eclectic stock - which seemed to move about every week so that, when seeking out what you wanted, you spotted things you didn't know you wanted ! In the 1940s and 50s it was a "must" for a browse during every visit to the High Road. And for my generation and beyond it was often the place where one's first record was purchased.

Now its just about no more - truly the end of an era !

Happy New Year to you all !

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Olympics Success

Here in Nottinghamshire we are basking in the magnificent achievement of "our own" Rebecca Adlington from Mansfield. Two golds and a world record - what an achievement !

The Great Britain squad is seeing success in other fields too, particularly in water sports and in cycling - which has yielded four gold, two silver and two bronze medals so far - all of which we admire and congratulate.

Beeston has had a cycling tradition for many years - both in competition and recreational cycling - and this latest triumph reminds me of past cycling successes in which cyclists from Beeston played a part. For it was Beeston's own Ian Hallam who took Bronze in the 4000 Metre Team Pursuit in both Munich in 1972 and Montreal in 1976. He also took Golds in the Commonwealth Games in 1970 and 1974.

Earlier still, we remember the local cyclist Ray Bootie who rode for a Beeston club and who, in 1956, was the first to break the 100 mile time trial barrier of 4 hours. He too saw success with a Gold Medal in the 1958 Commonwealth Games.

This concentration of local interest and talent in cycling undoubtedly owed much to the cycle shop on Chilwell Road on the corner of Hall Croft. Started and run originally by Arthur Panter, it was then operated from 27 years up to 2000 by another local cycling stalwart, Sid Standard. The advice, equipment, service, focus and enthusiasm it provided to local cyclists certainly seems to have been a key ingredient in the local success that was achieved.

With the belief that the present and future are influenced by the past, perhaps Beeston played a tiny part in today's success. I like to think so.

Monday, June 9, 2008

100 Years Old and Still Going Strong

Fred Hallam's greengrocery - now Fred Hallam Ltd - is a popular shop on Beeston High Road. Founded by the original Fred in 1908, its one of the oldest businesses on the road. So - this year it celebrates 100 years of trading and we certainly send them our congratulations !

To mark the occasion, Miles and Andrew Hallam, the fourth generation of the family, have set up a gallery of photographs and pictures in the shop, showing aspects of the shop over the years. The earliest, taken in 1922, shows the original Fred with his son John - then eleven years old - who took over from his father in the 1930s. He was succeeded by his son, Fred and now his sons, Miles and Andrew are in charge. The display can be seen in the shop for the rest of the year.

I am often asked if I am related to one Hallam or another and I usually have to say no. Those who are unfamiliar with the area don't realise just how many with that name live in the Nottingham, Derbyshire, and South Yorkshire area in particular !

However - in this case I can say yes ! The original Fred was my father's half-uncle (my great-grandfather married twice). Interestingly, both my father - Albert Hallam, age 2 - and Fred, age 12, can be found on the 1901 census, living together with my grandparents, Charles & Sarah, on Queens Road, Beeston. This was a time when my grandfather appears to have operated my Great-grandfather John's greengrocery business there. There had been a long tradition of fruit, vegetable and - particularly - fish trading in the family and, for a while, Charles seems to have taken over. It didn't last long as he was to return to his job at Beeston Foundry - but, family tradition has it that Fred was then given 10 shillings to start out in the world, he hired a barrow for 6 pence, filled it with fruit and veg and the rest is history !

Whether or not the story is true, Fred's original efforts have certainly "borne fruit". Its a remarkable achievement - long may it continue !

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Rich Vein - and a Sad End

I am always pleased to hear from folk from around the world - none more so that those who I have been able to help wit their Beeston ancestors. This week I was pleased to hear from Trish Symonds from Australia who had extracted several pages of very interesting Beeston related stories from 19th century newspaper archives. I even discovered that my gt-gt-grandfather's brother - Thomas Hudston, then Beeston's postmaster - was killed on the railway crossing in May 1877.

But I was particularly struck by this poignant story from the Derby Mercury in March 1830 :

On the 26th ult., a coroner’s inquest was held at Codnor Park, in this county, on view of the body of Samuel Fletcher, late of Beeston, Nottinghamshire. The deceased had been begging in that neighbourhood for some days, and appeared unwell. On the day of his death he had applied to some miners there to let him lie down in one of their cabins, but was inhumanly refused. The poor fellow sat down near to a cabin door, and in two hours was found a corpse. Verdict – “Died by a Visitation of God”.

There is much in these extracts to explore and to develop into stories for this site and I certainly hope to do that - as always, keep visiting and watching for what's new about what's old !

End of an Era

The news that the Ericsson presence in Beeston will come to an end later this year is sad indeed. The origins of the factory in Beeston Rylands were built in 1901 by the National Telephone Company Ltd but were soon - in 1903 - taken over by British L M Ericsson Manufacturing Co Ltd. At the time this was a very significant development in the town, bringing the manufacture of a new technology of the age to replace the traditional textile industries - particularly lace and silk - which, even then, were past their peak.

And what a contribution to local prosperity - and the development of local skills - it made. Always a major employer, at its height in the years after the 2nd World War over 5000 were employed there. Anyone who lived in Beeston will remember the stream of bicycles and buses which passed through Beeston at the end of the working day - and at at mid-day when, as was then the custom, many of the workers went home for a midday meal. Nothing (except the railway crossing gates, before the road bridge was built) stopped them as they passed through the town.

For many too, it was the employer of choice when leaving school - in an era when engineering apprenticeships were sought after, forming a first-rate basis for a career. I well remember that, in the 1950s when I was leaving school, many considered a place in the Ericsson Drawing Office the perfect job. Now of course, the traditional draughtsman is no more. The old skills, prized by generations of local people and respected by their peers, are no longer learned.

These valuable skills were not just a basis for a job, they also often formed the basis of a hobby - many a model steam engine or radio set was constructed in a Beeston garden shed ! One group we heard of even got together and constructed the first television receiver in Beeston.

We hear that the workforce is down to about 300 - whatever the number, the loss of the jobs is particularly tragic for those involved as well as the town - and that perhaps half of these will be offered jobs in Coventry. Here, history is repeating itself when we recall that, in 1907, Beeston's economy was hit severely by the consolidation of Humber car manufacture to Coventry. Then, 3000 workers followed the jobs leaving empty properties and depressed conditions throughout Beeston. How much worse would it have been if Ericssons had not arrived and developed to help fill the gap. Lets hope that other opportunities arise now to use and develop local skills.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A Mysterious Find

When Julie Batchelor, of St Barnabas Church in Chilwell, approached me to help identify a collection of family papers which had come to light, I was intrigued and keen to help. The papers - mostly books, family photographs and postcards - were found in a box in the rafters of the church - and there is no real explanation as to why they were put there.

After examining them in detail, it was reasonably straightforward to establish that they appear to have belonged to Harold Bernard Garratt who was probably born in Beeston on 1914 and died in Nottingham in 1992. His parents were Bernard and Flora (née Hayward) who lived at 5 Chapel Street, Beeston (this would have been one of a row of cottages associated with the old Methodist New Connexion Chapel, long gone - having been absorbed into The Square shopping centre in the late 1960s). Harold attended Church Street school and there was a series of class photographs which I was kindly permitted to scan for the schools page on this site.

Using the available clues and the easy availability of the 19th century census records, it is easy to track his ancestors - but that is not the main objective. Ideally, the wish is to offer the collection to his descendants. So - we have to tackle the more difficult task of tracking the family forwards.

What do we know so far ? Using the evidence from a rent book in the collection, we know that, by 1938, he had married and was living with his wife at Gloucester Avenue, Chilwell, just over the Beeston boundary. This gave us a relatively small search in the GRO indexes from about 1935 - when he would have been 20. In fact, the couple were wed in Basford Registration District (probably in Beeston, but not, according to my available records, at the Parish church). His wife was Hilda Comery (1915-1999). No births to the couple have been found up to 1940.

That's the progress to date. The search will continue using the records that are available to us - including electoral rolls and newspapers - but help from anyone who knows the family would be very welcome.

Look forward to hearing from you !

Monday, February 4, 2008

New Premises, Old Tradition

On Saturday morning I was very pleased to attend the opening of the new Pearson Centre for Young People on Nuart Road - on what was part of Roundhill School field. This excellent, purpose-built building replaces the old Lads' Club building on Station Road which has now been demolished as part of the Tesco development. The centre provides a wide range of activities for young people and facilities for the community and is the home of the 17th Nottingham Boys Brigade and the Girls Brigade.

The old building (shown left) - and the sports field on Queens Road which is also being redeveloped - were originally given, for the most part, by the Pearson family - notable Steven Hetley Pearson who was killed in World War 1. The original building - opened in 1913 and extended in 1915 - served generations of young people for about 95 years and it owes much to the foresight of the original donors in providing these facilities that the provision of such excellent new facilities has been possible.

It was appropriate therefore that a member of the present generation of the Pearson family, Simon Mark Pearson, a great nephew of Steven Hetley Pearson - and grandson of Gervas Pearson - should officially open the new premises. In this, he was ably supported by the Mayor of Broxtowe, Councillor Brian Wombwell and the Chairman of the Centre, John Wilson. This historic moment in the life of the centre is shown above.

We wish the centre well in its excellent work for the young people of Beeston and district.