Transcript of Jim Buckingham's Tapes
I am trying to record some of my memories of Whitwell in my early days of the 1920’s and 30‘s. I was born in Coronation Street which was once known as New Street in January 1921. It was just after the First World War. The street itself had about 10 houses as I recall and of course I knew most of the families I grew up with there. We lived near to the top and there was a high wall across the top which meant that you couldn’t see over into the field above Coronation Street but that was in fact the field that the Whitwell Mill was standing in at that time. I couldn’t see the Mill from there but I do remember seeing it when my Father took me to his allotment in Mill Lane which meant we had to walk up through the village and down by Fox Road and into Mill Lane to get to the allotment and I saw the Mill but I don’t remember whether it had sails or not - I have a vague memory of the body of the Mill. It was eventually taken down and became the site for Mill Crescent.
I remember some of the people that lived in Coronation Street when I was in my first five or six years. There was a Mr. Blow who was the Manager of the Grocery Department of the Worksop Co-operative Society, Welbeck Street, and I think I am right in thinking that Welbeck Street was at that time called Larpit Lane. Mr. Blow eventually left the Street and had a house built on the left hand side, past Whitwell Rectory and it was about the last house before you get to Whitwell Common. It was overlooking the village from there and it stood on a very advantageous position. That was Mr. Blow.
Then I remember Mr. Robert Mills who, besides being a painter and decorator was also the conductor of the Aeolian Glee Men, a male voice choir who were in much demand for concerts in the area.
Then there was the Pearson family who had a daughter who became my teacher at Whitwell School in about 1926 but I don’t remember much of the other families but we were all known to one another and I do remember that conditions were such that one lady used to send across to see if she could borrow a cup of sugar from my mother. They were quite hard up.
We didn’t have sweets in those days but a substitute for that was to have a screw of paper with sugar and cocoa mixed together and dip your finger in it and a stick of rhubarb and you dipped the stick of rhubarb into the sugar. They were the kind of things we had because you couldn’t afford sweets.
But going down into Welbeck Street or Larpit Lane if I’m correct, I remember many of the shops down there at my time, my first few years, and I got to know all of the people who kept them. There was Cartwright’s, a little general store, by the entrance to the Rec and then coming up towards the village was Calladines, the newsagents, and the barber’s next to that, then Mr. G.H. Fisher, the chemist, and Vickers, a little general grocers, and several other shops on that side and then you crossed over to the bottom of Coronation Street where there was Burtons the drapers shop. Mr. and Mrs. Burton kept that. Mr. Burton was accidentally shot in a shooting accident at Welbeck and he was killed when I was quite small but I do remember him.
Then there were several other shops. I think there was a fishmonger and then you got to Shakespeare’s, a big double fronted shop and Mr. and Mrs. Shakespeare kept that. They were grocers to which my mother went and then a little further up I think there was a cycle shop and then Marley’s the photographer. I remember Mr. Marley because of Empire Day, which was kept religiously in those days.
Empire Day was the Birthday of Queen Victoria and in Queen Victoria’s time some M.P. had proposed a motion that that day should be called Empire Day and used to inculcate the virtues of citizenship in our young people so that meant that we gathered around the Union flag in the school playground on Empire Day. I think it was a morning do and we had the afternoon off if I remember rightly. We sang patriotic songs to the flag and Mr. George Marley would appear with his plate camera on a tripod with a black cloth over his head and take photographs of various groups of us and they would appear in his shop window a few days later and also I think they were printed in the Worksop Guardian. That was Mr. Marley.
There was a greengrocer and fruiterer called Mr. Bennett, and Atkins the sweetshop, Bedfords a general store. Then there was a break for Fox Road and then a Chapel and a little further up there was Mr. Ashley’s the butcher. When Mr. Ashley gave up the shop his son, Ron Ashley, took it over and carried on right into the War I think or maybe after that. Then further up the street still would be the only multiple shop in the village – a branch of Melias, and opposite to them, on the opposite corner, at the corner of Spring Hill, would be the old original branches of the Worksop Co-operative Society – the grocer and the draper and so on. That of course was eventually replaced by what I assume may still be there - that’s the buildings before you get to that, before you turn down into Spring Hill, and next to the Co-op was Dr. Bell’s Curiosity Shop.
Dr. Bell was a man who had lived in South Africa and had married out there and had come back to Whitwell and opened this little shop with a number of odds and ends in the window which we used to look in with curiosity, things like an ostrich egg and things like that and Mrs. Bell and her sister were both South African Boers of Dutch extraction and I’ve seen pictures of Boer women since and realised that they had got the sort of typical fairly thick cut features of the Boer women. As you went down past Dr. Bell’s, incidentally his house was in the yard adjoining the shop, and he had a huge pear tree on the wall of his house which was always filled with pears in due season.
Then you go down Hunger Hill into the Square and on the left was a farm which is now no longer there it’s been removed years ago for widening of the road but it was a big ivy covered farm that faced into the Square across the road to the War memorial and it had stack yards adjoining it, going round into Station Road, so as you went down to Station Road you could see the farming activities at thrashing time particularly.
Opposite to that farm into Station Road itself was the village pump and a little building called the Reading Room which was not in use to my knowledge but we knew it as the Reading Room and just near there of course was Butt Hill in which Mr. Gee the joiner and undertaker had his premises. Across the Square, on our right, as you go down Hunger Hill was Sapsfords, another joiner and undertaker and Mr. Sapsford’s workshop had two big double doors which were sometimes opened and you could see them at work as you went by. Then there was a little shoe shop, I think that was somebody called Stoppards, but I’m not quite sure of that. Then you came to the Boot and Shoe Inn and another couple of shops – Carrier the draper. I remember Mr. Carrier very well.
Anyway back to Coronation Street. Of course it was lighted by gas. All the houses were lighted by gas and no indoor lavatories. The lavatories were at the end of the yard. They were earth lavatories which had to be emptied by a weekly visit from the night soil man, whose name was Mr. Spibey and he had a horse and cart. A very unhygienic and nasty job which would not be countenanced today.
Some of the visitors, the itinerants who came into the village to earn a living I remember, things you wouldn’t see today like the knife grinder, a man who would come in at intervals and he had a bicycle which was adapted to work a little grinding wheel and you would lift the bike up onto a sort of stand which meant that it immobilised the back wheel, he would then get on to his saddle and pedal away and the wheel would be geared up to the grinder and he would grind your knives and scissors and things.
Another familiar figure in the village of course was the chimney sweep because we all had coal fires and therefore the chimney sweep was in much demand, particularly at the beginning of winter and the beginning of spring when the winter was over. I remember there used to be a little Indian peddler who came round from door to door several times a year carrying a big suitcase – I can’t remember what he sold – but things like tea towels, dish cloths and so on. I do remember he was the only black man that we ever saw. It was very rare indeed to see a coloured person at all in Worksop even but this man used to come to the village – a huge object of curiosity amongst the children.
Another visitor to the village was the rag and bone man. Can you imagine anybody making a living out of buying and selling rags and bones but he would come out and shout "Any rags and bones, rags and bones". If anybody gave him any – or sold him – because they were about a ha’penny or a penny - he would be delighted if he got a piece of metal – I suppose he would get more for that and that was the rag and bone man.
Now of course the lamplighter was a regular man because the streets, like the houses were, lighted by gas so the lamplighter was a familiar figure for morning and night. He would come in the evening when it was getting dark. He would prop his bike up and with a little pole he would reach up to pull the lever on the gas lamp standard. That would light up the street and he would come back in the morning to put it out.
I was thinking about some of the games that we played in those days. They were different to what children play today but we had marbles, a little set of marbles and alleys, and we used to roll them and try to get them into a little indentation in the earth. Of course the pavements were often made of earth anyway. They weren’t tarmacced or anything. We played 5 stones, or snobs as we called them for some reason or another. Snobs. There was a game called tingalerky. I think that was the same as tipcat. You would have a piece of wood laid across a stone like a seesaw, put a cotton reel or a piece of wood on one end, strike the other end with a sort of club, that would knock the cotton reel into the air and you would strike it and see how far you could hit it. It must have been good for sight training, and the forerunner of some cricketers - I suppose who got their eye in by playing tingalerky.
Faggies – that was cigarette cards - of course every packet of cigarettes had fag cards in them. We never called them cigarettes, we called them fags. They had cigarette cards in them which we used to swap and flick against the wall to try and get nearest to the wall and so on. That was faggies. Conkers. Everyone knows the game of conkers. We played that in due season by collecting conkers from the woods. Whip and top. You had a little top and you often coloured the top of it with a chalk pattern and a whip which was wrapped round the top and pulled away sharpish and the top began to spin. The pattern that you had made was a sort of kaleidoscopic effect on top.
The hoops that we used to run about the street with was a little facile and seems crazy to me but boys, I don’t think girls used to do it – boys used to run around the street with a piece of stick and a hoop – a circular hoop – and we used to hit the hoop. My father had one made for me at the blacksmith’s – George Hartleys – whose smithy was at the top of the High Street and he made the hoop. I suppose it was about 18 inches to 2 feet in diameter and about less then ½ inch thick steel rod welded into a perfectly circular shape and you hit it with a piece of stick. It was quite a common sight to see boys running about the village and of course were so few cars so he could run along the streets and beating this hoop in front of you.
Skipping, there was skipping rope and was a more seasonal thing. I seem to think that was more for girls as was the other game – battledore and shuttlecock. But they were a bit more seasonal I think more round Easter and spring. But they were some of the games which seem so different from the Game Boy that my grandson plays today.
Going back to the tradesmen in Whitwell. The man who kept the Fox House dairy and off-licence was a man called Leo Baker and he used to come round every day with a pony and trap and in the trap was a large steel churn full of milk and he had some little measures of quart, a half, and pint size hanging on the side of the churn and he would come to the door, knock or walk straight in and there would be a gill of milk waiting, a milk jug rather, waiting on top of the copper, the copper that was used for heating water on washdays and he would come into the door and shout – "Be not afraid ‘tis only I" – that was his regular call - he never said good morning or good-bye or anything like that, and he would dole out the required amount of milk. I remember Mr. Baker particularly because he was a very jovial man. He used to come in the door and shout "Be not afraid ‘tis only I" and he would tell us about two habits of his which he said kept him fit. One was to sniff brine, a salt solution, into his nose every morning before he came out and he said that kept him free from cold, and he hadn’t had a cold for donkey’s years, and the other thing was that he used to brush his teeth with carbolic soap and he said he still had his own teeth. I don’t know how old he was but anyway that was Mr. Leo Baker, one of the regular characters you would see around.
One of my early and very, very happy memories of Whitwell is when the Feast came. Now Feast Day for the Celebration of the feast of the patron saint of the village church, St. Lawrence, was never before the 4th August or after the 11th, and it was held in a little field opposite to Leo Baker’s dairy. I think there are bungalows there now but in those days it was a field by a grey stone wall, and a few days before the Feast was due to arrive there would be several courses of stone knocked away from the gateway to widen the gate because the Feast was brought by huge traction engines called Lord Curzon and Lord Kitchener. I remember their names were on the plates of their boilers and these magnificent beasts used to come chuffing and lowling? up the village street churning it up to some extent. They were very heavy of course and they had big, wide wheels and they would turn into this field and then there would be the feverish frantic activity setting up stalls.
There was roll-a-penny and coconut shies and hoop-las and stalls for selling things to eat like brandysnap and candyfloss and that sort of thing. But the crowning thing of the whole set up was in the middle – a roundabout. Harry Hall’s gorgeous whales. And Harry Hall himself, the proprietor, would sit in the middle of this large roundabout which went up and down and round the central part and in the centre was a Calliope steam organ and Mr. Harry Hall would sit there, bowler hatted, in the centre of it all with piles of money, pennies and ha’pennies, on the table in front of him. The fairmen would ride round on the whales with you and collect your money and step off and hand it to Harry Hall. Incidentally on Feast Sunday there was always a religious service on the fairground and it was customary for the locals to go and sit in the whales or any other roundabouts that there were or wherever they could park themselves and the village parson would conduct a religious service and the hymns were played on this steam Calliope organ. Of course he wasn’t there for very long in my young days. The Feast moved to allow the building to take place. The Feast moved down on to Station Road past the Vaults Spirits Hotel and then they seemed, if I remember correctly, I think it was about that time they discontinued the practice of having a religious service there and it used to take place on the High Hill.
I remember the Band would parade around on the Sunday and would go round the village and there would be choir boys and there would be the Church Lads Brigade and other organisations. They would finish up round in the Dicken and then on to the lower part of the High Hill and the parson would stand at the bottom part facing the assembled congregation who were draped around the terraces on the heights above him, and one little memory I have is when some of the choirboys were rolling pebbles down and the bandsman had placed their instruments on the grass with their trumpets or their bells facing upwards and one lad caught a bulls eye with a pebble straight into the euphonium and there was a hell of a clatter right in the middle of the service. It was in later years that on that High Hill there was a big bonfire in 1935 for the celebration of the Jubilee, the Silver Jubilee for George V and Queen Mary and there were various activities going on the High Hill at the time.
Four things I remember of the period were seeing the airship – I don’t know whether it was the R100 or the R101 going over the village but I remember standing aghast at the top of Coronation Street it moved slowly over and I was told that that was what it was – I can’t remember whether it was the R100 or the R101. Of course I’ve mentioned the lamplighters.
I also remember when the electricity came into the district. That started at the bottom of Hodthorpe and worked its way up and it was a great delight when we could do away with the gas lamps and the gas mantles and kept gas for cooking on a little gas ring but most of the cooking was done in a side oven at the side of the coal fire and electricity was just used for lighting. We used all of the electricity we wanted for 9d. a week in summer and 1/3d a week in winter. It was supplied by the colliery because an employee of the colliery, Mr. Pigott Thompson, used to come round every Saturday morning to collect the money.
I started school when I was about 5 and I went to the infants’ school at Whitwell and the Headmistress was Miss Drabble a kindly creature with pince-nez glasses, a very pleasant manner. My class teacher was Miss Phillips whose parents kept a shop just past Cross’s, the barbers, past Whitwell School and then I went into Miss Pearson’s class and it was about this time that the General Strike was on. I do remember some big coppers in the top playground and people coming there for soup but the top end of the yard was covered by what we called "the sheds" which was simply a roof over one portion of the playground so that when it rained we were able to take shelter and that’s where the soup kitchens were set up. Of course the playgrounds were not tarmacced, they were only earth so it was a fair weather occupation to be able to play in the playground at all. But the couple of years that I spent at the Whitwell School I don’t remember very much about as it was about that time that my father bought a fish and chip shop in Hodthorpe and we left Coronation Street to go to Queen’s Road Hodthorpe and there we were only five doors away from the Higgins family.
The first shop in Queen’s Road, Hodthorpe, was Leams, the butcher, next to them were some people called Wades, then there was a big gap and the yard in which there was a slaughter house for the Leams and a man called Alf had a bakehouse there, and next to that was no.5 Queens Road which was where the Higgins lived, we lived at 17 but out of all the Higgins family, Burley was the eldest, he was older than I, and then Jimmy who was a little bit older, Geoffrey was about my age, Mike was a bit younger and then there was the girls - Poppy, was the eldest young lady, and then Jane and Pam, I can remember them being born. They were a wonderful family because they all went to Grammar School they all did well for themselves. I particularly remember Jimmy because somewhere in my period living near to him I remember we were talking together at the front of the house one day and an aeroplane went over and Jimmy said "You know that’s the thing of the future – flying is the career I’m going in for - I’ll be a pilot one day" and in due course first his brother Burley went off and took his wings and then Jimmy did. The last time I saw Jimmy was in about 1940 on a ‘bus to Worksop and then I heard nothing more from him all of these years until in the 1990’s I picked up the Daily Telegraph and in the Obituary pages there was a picture of Big Jim Higgins and a half a page in the London Daily Telegraph all about his achievements. Of course Burley’s was a much more tragic story as I’m sure the Local History Society will know but I remember Burley very, very well and that was the Higgins family.
Now I started then at Hodthorpe School and the Headmistress was a Miss Jackson. I think my first teacher was a Mrs. Hobson, a widow, who also had two allotments below the School and Mrs. Hobson really got me going on the number and English and so on and then I went into the next class which was Miss Ratcliffe and it was often shared with Miss Jackson who shared the duties as head teacher with class teacher as well. Some of the things I remember particularly about Miss Jackson were on bitterly cold winter days we still had the earth playground there as well as at Whitwell – the practice was for Miss Jackson and Mrs. Ellis, the caretaker, to make hot Horlicks with a quarter of milk, mostly water, but it was very hot and it was sold at playtimes for a ha’penny a cup and if you were lucky and there was some left you got another cup for nothing. Miss Jackson lived in Fox Road in Whitwell and she used to walk down to Hodthorpe every day to school but then she had a house built with her sister. Alice Jackson was quite a big jolly woman with a very infectious laugh - rippling laugh. Her sister was a tiny diminutive little woman whom she called her sister "little Miss Jackson" and occasionally "little Miss Jackson" would come into school on some business and of course our Miss Jackson would say "Now you all know little Miss Jackson and you are going to sing her a song." And if the Rector or anybody else came in her form of a treat for them was for us to sing them a song. Anyway that was one thing about Miss Jackson.
Another thing was she had this house built up on Newcastle Avenue and that meant her commuting daily by ‘bus and at about five to twelve she would say to one of us "Go on bus duty" and we would have to go to the part of the classroom where there was a window facing towards the bridge for Whitwell – there were no houses in between just two or three fields and we would stand and watch for the bus coming. Within that time Miss Jackson would stand with hat, coat and handbag all ready and she would call out tables seven fours, eight threes, and point and you would quickly have to give the answer. And if you did you could go off at about two to three minutes to twelve because we all went off as there were no school dinners and suddenly the boy on duty would shout out "Here’s the bus Miss" and she would go flying out with her coat tails flying and the bus would wait at the gate if she was not quite there and she would get on the bus and go off to Worksop – coming back at half past one so she must have had a quarter of an hour or so going into Newcastle Avenue, she would have her lunch, about an hour, and then she would come back and be back for half past one. I remember that was one way of sharpening us up.
It was about this time that we had a visitor in School one day – Mr. Minchin – for some reason or another his nickname was Tut and he was the choirmaster at Welbeck Abbey – to hear some boys sing with a view to them being probationers in the choir at Welbeck Abbey. The choir used to sing alternately at Welbeck Abbey and at Holbeck Church which is on the estate in Holbeck village on the other and Mr. Minchin chose a few of us from Hodthorpe and we went to Welbeck for practise on Monday evenings. I had an old lady’s bike which I used to ride, a little oil lamp and I used to have to go down Portland Lane, along Mansfield Road, turn left at the Fishpond, through the short tunnel into Welbeck village and there we had choir practice. It didn’t go on long for me because one night it was very foggy and I fell into a ditch down between Belph and Portland Lane and my father said I hadn’t to go again but in fact I don’t think anyone from our School stayed the course but I think one or two from somewhere else told us that if you stayed on and got into the choir you got 10 shillings a term as a choirboy.
I remember reading in the Duke of Portland’s autobiography some years later "Men, Women and Things." I remember he named some of the visitors they had at the Abbey with quite well known names. One that I remember was the King of Siam. They had been to church in the morning and I often wondered if I had got into the choir if I would have seen some of these well-known people.
Talking of Welbeck Abbey reminds me it was distant from us and yet near to us so much of our lives were related to either the pit or to Welbeck Abbey and every other year there would be the Notts. and Derby County Show held at Welbeck and there were all kinds of attractions there and you would go on to other parts there. There would be various sideshows and things but it gave me the opportunity to go into the Underground Ballroom of the Abbey – a magnificent room – and I also saw the indoor riding school which in later years I learned was modelled on the School at Vienna but another thing I remember on one of the parks there at the Abbey on the estate was that every so often I think it was the Sherwood Forester Regiment – whether they were Territorial or not I don’t know – but they would come and do a summer camp there and people from the village used to walk down on Sundays and walk round the camp. I remember seeing all these soldiers shaving outside their tents. I realised that that was what Army life was like from an early age.
But going back to the Abbey – I always thought it was sort of a miniature Chatsworth. It had beautifully manicured lawns and gardens and also a lot of fountains and figures and in this regard I would like to mention a couple of cousins – twin boys, one year older than I – Harry and Arthur Buckingham and they worked on the estate in the gardens from being about fourteen and in late years when the War came they – a lot of the workers on the estate were expected to join up and they did – and they joined the Sherwood Foresters Regiment – I think it was. They went off to fight in Northern Africa in Libya and Tripoli. One was a chauffeur to an officer and the other one was a tank driver and the one who was a chauffeur was coming back from duty one day with his officer and he saw a tank burned out at the side of the road and realised that it was his brother’s tank so he never saw his twin brother again but he, Arthur, the one who survived, came back two or three year later, resumed his work on the gardens at Welbeck and lived in Gas House Lodge, Mansfield Road, and I think he became head gardener but he wrote a little booklet which I have which certainly opened my eyes as to the practises down at the gardens in the 1930’s . Anyway that was the twin Buckinghams.
As I say there was a lot of connection with Welbeck in one way and another. Us kids used to cycle round through the tunnels, the long tunnel and the short tunnel and we would go on to Carburton Lakes and the Lions mouth fountain at Budby, down Lime tree Avenue. Something called the Russian long hut which I only ever saw twice – I wouldn’t know exactly where they are now. As I say we cycled all around that area to Clumber and it’s surprising what distances we used to cover but Welbeck was more open then because of course the tunnels were open. You could go up Broad Lane from Hodthorpe and cycle right through or walk, I’ve done both, right through the long tunnel towards the short one and Welbeck. Another favourite walk was to go right up Broad Lane and through the Forest to the Lion Gates off Sparken Hill, Worksop and I’ve done that on more than one occasion.
I have another reason to be interested in Welbeck because my father who had been born in Teapot Yard in Whitwell went off to the First World War in 1914. He had gone off to the War like so many others of the village and he had been very badly wounded somewhere around 1917 or 18 – of course several years before I was born – and he’d been taken to a military hospital at Gateshead and his brother, my uncle Stephen, who was an educated man – he was a schoolmaster – and assistant adjutant in the RFC – he was a master at Harrow – and he knew Winifred, Duchess of Portland and he was telling her about his brother, my father, and she had Dad taken from the hospital at Gateshead, they moved him to some other hospital where he received treatment for his wounds and he said that Winifred Duchess of Portland had saved his life. It seemed that she was very well known for all kinds of benevolent acts and of course she eventually set up Harlow Wood Hospital but she was very well regarded in the Colliery villages at Creswell and Whitwell particularly and of course Welbeck itself.
Whilst I was at Hodthorpe School Miss Jackson suggested that I should go in for the County minor scholarship – the eleven plus of that time – I wasn’t very interested and she sent for my father and asked him about it and then I discovered that to go in for it you had to go on a train to Shirebrook on a Saturday and sit for this test and of course that was a great spur to me so a number of us from my class set off on the required Saturday morning with a packed lunch – I don’t remember having any chaperones or attendants or anything. We went from Whitwell Station to Shirebrook via Creswell and Langwith and we went to Carter Lane Boys School, Shirebrook.
Why Shirebrook, I don’t know – I think Shirebrook must have been a bit more as an administrative area for Derbyshire at that time. People used to go to Shirebrook market on Friday and it seems that on this particular day there were schools from all around sending children to Shire brook and we had a test in dictation, sums, spelling and composition, and it was just a morning out as far as I was concerned but we came back and that would have been 1931 and then in 1932 I had reached the age of eleven and I had to leave Hodthorpe and go back to Whitwell to the Senior part of the Schools. Hodthorpe must have been the equivalent of infant and junior and we were going up to Whitwell Senior School where my teacher was Miss Barlow from Creswell – in the next room was that well-known figure Pat Gallagher – an Irish teacher who was also a correspondent for The Worksop Guardian.
You would see bits in the Worksop Guardian about Whitwell and Hodthorpe news attributed to E. P. Gallagher. Pat Gallagher had a lovely Irish brogue and he had a fondness for drink and I have often seen him rolling down Larpit Lane to I think it was either Duke Street or Duchess Street where he lived. At weekends I would see him the worse for drink but he was said to be a very good teacher.
The Head teacher in this part of the school and at this time of my life was Mr. Dix and I had just a few months in Miss Barlow’s class she was said to be very, very strict but I got on extremely well with her and she used to pick me out on a Friday to read to the class and I remember Mr. Dix coming in and asking "How’s this lad getting on" and she said he picks up things like a bird and as I say I was a just there from January to July because about that time I heard that I had been successful in passing the minor scholarship and I was going to Staveley grammar school in September. I and another lad, Paul Fletcher, whose father was manager at Whitwell Kinema, went to Staveley.
Talking of Paul Fletcher and the Kinema reminds me that I haven’t said anything about going to the pictures. When I was at Whitwell School the first time I was taken along by other kids to Whitwell pictures and of course it opened a whole new world to me – they were silent films mostly westerns as I remember like Tom Mix and Rin Tin Tin, and there was also a serial about Dr. Singh Fang. To go to the pictures on a Saturday afternoon was 2d. to go in and it was a very, very noisy lot because people used to be yelling and screaming right through the pictures and if a reel broke down which it often did they would be screaming to the roof almost but there was a woman in there called Gladys Hardwick.
I was listening to a discussion on the radio the other day about the Health Service and the private insurance and it reminded me of the days of 1920’s at Whitwell when we had our own form of private insurance. Dr. Lawson had a Doctor’s Club and you could subscribe to it – I think it was a few coppers a week or it may be a month – I don’t know and I can’t remember who used to come and collect it – but you would have a membership card and once you were in the Club you didn’t have to pay for Doctor’s visits. I’m not sure about the prescriptions – I suppose he would make out prescriptions and you would take it to the chemists and probably pay for it there – I don’t know, or whether the prescriptions were free I just don’t remember but it was our form of private health insurance and of course people were quite enterprising really and very mutually minded and used to help one another and there was a thing called The Women’s Club.
An old gentleman by the name of Mr. Holbrook, I think he was either the Treasurer or Chairman or something, used to collect subscriptions from women once a month, I think it was on a Tuesday night, and I remember going to Whitwell School with my Mother when I was quite small and she would go in and pay her dues but it was a form of death benefit for women members. If any members died during the month there was a levy on the subscription. I remember my mother going in and saying, "How many levies this month, Mr. Holbrook?" and he would say, "Oh yes Mrs. So and so died on the 15th August and therefore there will be an extra subscription" and in this way they were able to keep the funds up. The relatives of the deceased would be able to claim a small amount towards the funeral expenses.
As for men – well there were a number of Friendly Societies which I suppose men or women could join but it was generally the men who subscribed, because they were the breadwinners. I mean my Father was in something called the National Deposit Friendly Society – he died and there was just the matter of a very small subscription and then there was a lump sum payable on death. Of course people went to the Doctor’s as little as they could because of the expense of medicines and as for going to hospital it was only as a very last resort that one was sent there.
The hospitals then were the Victoria Hospital in Worksop, the Sheffield Hospitals – I think there was one particularly for women – called Jessops. There was the fever hospital at Mastin Moor, for severe orthopaedic cases you had to travel right away to the borders of Staffordshire. Only a few weeks ago I was motoring around Burton on Trent when I saw Bretby Hall Hospital. I don’t know what it is now – it isn’t a hospital in an ordinary sense. It looked more like an old workhouse but I remember when I lived in Coronation Street my cousin Ron Hopkins had, I think, a tubercular hip, and he had operations and one leg was much shorter than the other. In fact he used to wear a sort of skate on one boot and I could always trace him when I wanted to play with him as I used to go out into Coronation Street and follow the track of his boot in the earth. But he was at Bretby Hall Orthopaedic Hospital and I remember on one occasion my mother went with his mother who was her sister in law of course to Bretby Hall and I remember that they had to go from Whitwell to Chesterfield by East Midland bus and change at Chesterfield and wait quite a long time to catch another bus which I suppose would go out towards Burton on Trent via Bretby Hall and then they would visit for about an hour and then they would do the same thing in return and it was quite a whole day’s journey to go from Whitwell to Bretby Hall and of course nobody had cars in those days.
I remember two cars in the village, and right at the beginning of my childhood there I remember that Mr. Sternberg, the Rector there, had an Austin 7 but he soon gave it up as his family grew and I think it was too expensive to run so he either walked or cycled.
Talking about going to the doctor’s. A lot of people of course had cures of their own and there were herbal medicines and that sort of thing to buy at Bedford’s shop at Whitwell and Beardsley’s at Hodthorpe used to display cards – and little one ounce bottles of tinctures and so on. I think they were made by a firm called Parkinson’s of Sheffield – it was a Sheffield firm anyway of manufacturing chemists. They sold lots of these little things at 2d. a time – olive oil, camphorated oil, and something called ipechuanha wine which I think was for the stomach and I remember a woman coming into Beardsleys shop at Hodthorpe once when I was in and asking for two pen north of " ipececi" please and I wondered what on earth "ipececi" was.
Ipecacuanha wine – and there were various little boxes of powders – Beechams powders of course – which was for colds and chills and flu, but there were backache pills and oh all sorts of stomach ache pills. Things for headaches – all for 2d. a time in the shops. Things like liver pills, laxatives, and so on – California syrup of figs for children and an awful laxative I thought was senna pods. You bought these pods in a packet, dried almost transparent pea pods, brown colour with little seeds in them, you poured boiling water on them and then cooling the liquid. That was a laxative – I hated it – I didn’t have to have it very often. That was it.
Now on this matter of medicines which we administered ourselves, there used to be a very popular salve called Harrison’s salve. Mr. Harrison kept the Fish and Chip shop at Hodthorpe and he used to sell it and some people called it black jack - it was like a stick of black liquorice almost, or black sealing wax and it was very popular amongst miners because they used to melt it using a match or a candle, then let it drip on to it and they would apply it to a bandage and as it cooled they would apply it to sores, pimples, as it had a very good drawing effect.
Now Mr. Harrison eventually left and went back to his native Coventry but coincidentally I had an aunt who lived in King Street at Hodthorpe, her maiden name was Kate Harrison, and she was sister to this Mr. Harrison who kept the chip shop and Kate married my uncle Alf Smith, and they left Hodthorpe when I was four and went to live at Ollerton and his brother, my other uncle, Sam, were both killed in Ollerton Colliery so auntie Kate left Ollerton, went to live in Nottingham for a short time and then back to Coventry. She had not kept in touch with the rest of the family and it was not until many years later when I came to live in Coventry that I sought her out and then used to visit her regularly, right until she died many years later. We were talking one day about Harrison’s salve and she said, "Of course that’s my family’s recipe." She gave me a stick and I found it very, very useful. Unfortunately she had not got the recipe and we never got any more.
But only a few years ago I was thinking about this and there was a column in the Coventry evening paper called "Enquire Within" and you could write up all kinds of questions. I decided to do this and three or four years ago I wrote to "Enquire Within" to ask if anyone knew of this Harrison’s salve and Aunt Kate must have been dead 30 years I suppose or so or more but to my amazement there was a page full of replies a few nights later in the Coventry Evening Telegraph of people who had known the salve or had been related to the Harrisons. That was the connection between Hodthorpe and Coventry - it was Harrison’s salve. Needless to say nobody knew the recipe and it would probably not be allowed to either made or sold these days anyway.
Talking about medicines leads me on to think about – I suppose - births, deaths and marriages, thinking about the doctors and Dr. Lawson. I remember the midwife when I was a small child called Nurse Hinks who used to ride round on her old sit up and beg bicycle with a guard on the back just like the one shown on T.V. some time ago with Nerys Hughes doing rounds as a district nurse. Now Nurse Hinks delivered most of the babies. They were all delivered at home. I never knew anyone to go to hospital but Nurse Hinks seemed to come and delivered them all and she had a blue uniform and a sort of mob cap hat like you see in pictures of old nurses. She had a favourite name – Hilary – and if she went and delivered a baby and it was a girl – so many of the mothers called their baby Hilary that I often wonder how many women there are now about 70 called Hilary who would know that’s how they got their name. It would be interesting to know but she eventually married a man called Cooper and then was Nurse Cooper instead of Nurse Hinks and she had a daughter and I think her name was Hilary and I also think that the people next door to me on Queens Road had a daughter called Hilary - but perhaps my memory is not quite accurate about that – I don’t know.
So there we are coming into the world with Nurse Hinks or Nurse Cooper and that led me on to think of going out of the world – birth and death. Of course in the 20’s – I won’t say nobody but no one I knew had undertakers. Today if somebody dies you go along to the funeral director or one of these private funeral firms - they take everything out of your hands and right up to the last minute – the advertisements, the flowers, the notice of death and the obituary and so on and the actual carrying out of the funeral. Then if someone died they would go and see Mr. Gee the joiners, or Mr. Sapsford, they both had workshops in Whitwell Square and they would measure up the body for the coffin. The coffin would be delivered very quickly on a handcart, the body would be placed into it then left in the front room on a couple of trestles and the coffin lid would be left off or on as the relatives wanted it but bearing in mind that the houses were much cooler in those days. There was no central heating and the front room was never heated anyway - or very rarely such as Sundays or special occasions – so the body lay in state as it were and on the day of the funeral Mr. Gee or Mr. Sapsford would come and fasten up the coffin and would then lead the procession. In my very early days the procession was not even a horse drawn carriage or a hearse it was a handcart or bier – that was a sort of glorified platform on wheels but if the family lived not too far from the churchyard and of course there were no cremations in those days so it was all funerals in Whitwell churchyard. Half a dozen men called bearers would be recruited from the family or neighbours or friends to carry the coffin up to the church, or as I say, if it was too far they would load it on to the bier, this sort of handcart, and take it up to the church so really you couldn’t afford the expense of proper funeral directors but this business has grown up over the years since then. Apart from Mr. Gee and Mr. Sapsford there was an old lady, I don’t think she had a proper title, like a nurse bringing you into the world was a midwife, the old lady that saw you out she was responsible for coming and cleaning up the body, padding the cheeks with cotton wool and putting cotton wool into the nostrils dressing the body in a suitable attire for putting into the coffin and a lot of old ladies, I don’t know if the men did it, kept a clean nigh tie in a drawer and it was always kept specially for their demise and they wouldn’t hesitate to keep reminding people that that was where it was and they could then go out decently. It just shows how things have changed.
I was trying to think about the domestic routine in the house, the home, in those days. I know that people of my age or even younger who listen to this tape will know that a lot of it is just routine and very familiar to them but I thought I would include it because it might be interesting to younger people being aware of the way we lived then and – starting the week with Mondays. Washing was always on a Monday – I don’t know why it was always Monday – it seemed the whole village washed on Monday and every house in Coronation Street and in Queens Road and King Street that I knew had a brick built copper in the corner of the kitchen, I expect some have still got them but in most cases the bricks have been knocked out and space made for modern washing machines but then there were no such things and we had this sort of a big cast iron cauldron, boiler or container, let into a brick corner of the kitchen with a little grate under it and two or three firebars. The women would get up very early on Monday morning – sometimes at four o’clock – to get the fire lighted and the water in the boiler hot and then it would be ready for the first wash, the white clothes, the bedclothes, towels etc. but whites anyway – the white sheets – and it was a matter of tremendous pride that your sheets were white as white. If possible whiter than anybody else’s and if a new person came to live in the neighbourhood the women delighted to go and have a look at her washing on the line and if it was clean and really white then she was more likely to be accepted than if it were a bit dingy and they would soon be whispering amongst themselves "Have you seen her washing?" - so it was a matter of great pride but the clothes weren’t boiled the sheets were all cotton – Horrocks’s cotton – so they were boiled and therefore sterilised as well and they didn’t have any washing powder not until later years – things like Oxydol and Ariel – but it was in fact soap flakes she bought – Lux soap flakes - and there was one from the Co-op called Sylvan soap flakes – like flakes of shaving soap and they would be put in with the wash and the wash would be stirred with a long stick like half a broom handle and it was stirred and agitated until it was time to take it out. On the end of this long copper stick – the washing would be hooked out and dropped into the dolly tub which in our case was thick earthenware, glazed on the inside and rough on the outside and about an inch thick and very fragile if you dropped it, it would have broken – we never did and it was used in later years as a store for bread because it was cool and ok to use but some people had dolly tubs that were made of galvanised steel. They were about the size of a small barrel and the washing would be dropped into that and cold water poured in and at that time there would be a little cloth container of Reckitts blue dye – it wasn’t a dye at all it was compound wrapped in a little cotton bag you could buy for a penny from Bedford’s shop and it had a sort of soluble clay blue and you dropped that into the rinsing water and it would colour the water blue which meant that the whites showed up to their best advantages. When they dried later of course they would be really white.
The next stage was the mangling and the mangle was a huge wrought iron contraption, a wrought iron frame with a handle attached by cog wheels to wooden rollers as a mangle and the wooden rollers were about 18 inches long and about 5 inches in diameter and there were some screws at the top that would move the rollers either closer together or apart – spring rollers they were, so when you were pushing great heavy sheets through the rollers and turning this big wheel, white hard work for the woman of the house, that was the way to get them dry and the water would drop into a bowl or a bath at the bottom on the floor and then the clothing would either be put onto a clothes horse – if it was fine of course it would be hung on a line. If it were not fine it was the hellish job of drying indoor. The people had airing lines across the living room. There would be a three long rails through a frame and that would be attached by ropes to pulleys and this would come down to a cleat at the side of wall and you could let this thing down, hang the washing over it, draw it up again.
As they were miners’ houses and there was always coal about – there was always a good fire in the room in the winter – in the one room – and the house was warm and there would be a warm air circulating to dry the clothes because everybody preferred to have them blowing in the wind. They thought that the towels dried much better and the linen dried much better if it had had a good blow in the fresh air. I remember when I was going to school my shirts were always hung over the fireguard before I went out and if I was going out on a Saturday night, going dancing at Hodthorpe School, my mother would hang my shirt over the fireguard and get them really hot as it was considered to be unsafe to have anything that was unaired. I don’t think it did you the slightest harm anyway but anyway that was the way it was. I suppose, as it was so cold if you started off with a good warm shirt or whatever it was to begin with. So that was washdays on Monday. Tuesdays of course – there weren’t any electric irons so the ironing was done with irons that were placed in front of the fire – they were fixed up on a sort of trivet – vertically right up to the bars of the fire so that the surface of the iron would get really hot. We lifted it away with a sort of cloth to insulate your hands from the heat and then you rubbed it with a little soap to keep it smooth and then that was how the ironing was carried out. And then again – pairing after that came on.
The washing was done on a Monday, ironed on a Tuesday and it was cleaning upstairs on Wednesday and baking day on Thursday. Baking day Thursday meant that you got seven pounds of flour from Mr. Shakespeare’s shop or the Co-op and that was turned into bread and teacake. Flat tea cakes with fruit in them and some fancies, not many, coconut pyramids, which were made out of desiccated coconut and egg yolk beaten into a sort of paste pressed into egg cups as a mould and then turned out on to a baking sheet and baked in the oven and for some reason they were called "Kiss Me Quicks" in Whitwell and other things like raspberry puffs, a sort of scone with jam inside them and also Bakewell tarts which were a must for anybody living in Derbyshire I suppose – a sort of pastry case with jam in it – strawberry or raspberry – and then a paste of almond, ground almonds, with egg yolk again, beaten together and made into this paste which was put on top and then baked in the oven. They were quite popular. Although we always had done all the baking at home it was a rare treat for cakes from the shop. We had a certain amount of artificial, or it could have been real, cream in them and you could buy cakes like Viennese whirls, and butterfly buns and allsorts of things for a penny each but 13 for a shilling. It was not just a question of buy one and get one free you had to buy 12 and get one free. A bakers dozen. And we used to love having those.
Looking back I think that the standard of living, although we were poor, everybody else was in the same boat because between the Wars, it was in the 20’s, it was leading up to the General Strike and after it and the country was only just getting straightened after the Great War which finished in 1918/19 and everybody had allotments, and so there was always fresh vegetables for meals carrots, onions, beans, peas and of course potatoes and we must have had quite a healthy diet and the meat of course was always a staple in the diet and that itself was a bit of a routine.
You would go to the butchers and there were three butchers in the village. There was Jack Leam at Hodthorpe, Mr. Ashley at Whitwell, on Welbeck Street, later to be taken over by his son Ron Ashley, and then there was another one at the other end of the village, just past Whitwell School, a little shop on the right just before you got to Cross’s the barbers, but I can’t remember their name. But we traded with Jack Leam when we lived at Hodthorpe because he was a friend of ours and you would go in on a Thursday and order what you wanted for the weekend a piece of meat which would be beef or pork and ring the changes on that. Of course there was no domestic refrigeration in those days and I think Jack Leam had a sort of cold cupboard - how it was insulated I don’t know because as I said in my earlier tape – in my early days there was no electricity but it meant that nobody would take delivery of their meat until Saturday morning and so Jack Leam would be up early on Saturday morning getting these joints of meat ready and of course he had killed his own beasts in the week in the slaughter house down at the back of his house and the meat would then be hung and prepared and so on and on Saturday morning he had to be up very early and he would tear up little squares of greaseproof paper and write the names of the customers on and some special little wire pins which held the greaseproof and he would stick them on to the joints and I remember seeing all these joints spread out over the counter, the back counter and the shelves and so on and of course towards Christmas it would be pork pies as well which he made – he made his own pork pies – and sausages were made on the premises. He made three kinds – pork, beef, and tomato and the tomato sausages were made with tins of Tarantella tomatoes and again one of my early memories is of seeing the shelf around, almost like a picture around the shop at no. 1 Queens Road, with tins of tomatoes on them that were for the tomato sausages. A very popular quick meal on Saturday lunchtime was to have a pan full of frying Tarantella tomatoes and served with oven cooked sausages and fried bread.
As I’m recording this, the paper boy has just been to our door and it is a little job that my own grandson does just further down the road – he gets about £8 a week for delivering papers each evening – he doesn’t do a morning round or a Sunday one – but he gets I think £7 or £8 which makes me think that when I was a boy at Hodthorpe I was very friendly with a boy called Arthur Drury.
The Drury family was quite a big family and the father was a valet or a butler at Welbeck Abbey I believe. I can’t remember his name - anyway Arthur was my close friend and they lived just above Edson’s beer off on the corner of King Street and our house. Arthur had a paper round. There used to be a shop in a row of terraced houses, opposite to Hodthorpe School called Hewkins, it was just a front room shop and Mr. Hewkin was a tall bearded man and he sold a few bits and pieces but he was also a newsagent. Arthur Drury had a job as a paper boy which entailed going to Whitwell Station six nights a week at half past six, meeting the Nottingham train, taking delivery of a little parcel of six Nottingham Evening newspapers. Now they were a penny each and Arthur used to – I often went with him so I know this was the case – we used to walk to pick up the papers, come back again, didn’t go to the shop, he would take them out of the parcel and drop them in at each of six different houses at the top and the bottom of Hodthorpe. Now must be the best part of a mile but he didn’t go back to the shop so Mr. Hewkin must obviously have paid him during the weekend. He took six papers at 1d. each – 6d. a day - that would be 36d. Mr. Hewkin would take for that and they had to come from Nottingham, and be fetched from the station and delivered and I can’t think what little bit of pocket money Arthur Drury got for that. How things have changed.
Of course the newspapers were different in those days – not little tabloid things – like the Daily Mirror and the Sun and so on but they were big ones – News Chronicle, Daily Sketch, Daily Herald and one or two others like that – I’m not sure – I can’t remember – but there was the Sheffield Daily Independent – just called the Independent. We always had the Independent, and weekly was the Worksop Guardian which was published by Sissons and Company at Bridge Street, Worksop, that was 2d. a week and there was the Derbyshire Times as well but we used to get the Worksop Guardian for the local news – all the births, deaths and marriages, the whist drives and all that sort of thing as news.
The pictures – that was the most important to me – what was on next week at the pictures? Of course if the men were working, even if they got a full weeks work in, they were only earning between £2 and £3 a week and you can imagine that keeping a family – as many them did on something between £2 and £3, even to buy a newspaper, 6d. a week for a newspaper was quite an item and 2d for a Sunday paper so it was all relative and when you see newspapers at a £1 each on a Sunday - £1.10. for the Sunday Times – it just shows how the cost of living has shot up.
Now the other day, someone had been trying to get in touch with me via the internet and I don’t have those facilities – I’m still learning how to switch the computer on but I’ll get round to it one of these days but my son has an up to date computer and the internet and so on and he gathered a message.
My name had been left on a list, a roll, of people who had been at Staveley Grammar School between 1932 and 1936 and this man didn’t go to Staveley then he went a few years later but apparently he came from Whitwell and he wanted to get in touch with Jim Buckingham who was at Staveley School between 1932 and 1936, because he had been to a reunion recently and some people had lent him an old school photograph dated 1937. It was one of those great long things about a yard long, but it had got all the pupils at that time and also the teachers and by the facility of the computer he had copied this thing before returning it and he had abstracted the pictures of the staff and he wanted to know if I could identify them because he thought that if I had left in 36/37 some of them would be there when he went in 1942 and therefore I would know who they were. He kindly sent me this lot and allowed me to keep them which is a great joy to me as I will explain in a minute but there was also a separate sheet on which he had taken 18 small pictures and enlarged them – 13 of my old teachers they didn’t all teach me – but I could identify 13 out of 18. It was wonderful to see them after all these years. I know that one of them, Mr. Barwelll is still alive at 90 odd now – all the others are dead and gone. But the interesting thing was I looked through this which as I say was taken in 1937 and after all these years I can remember and see one or two people who I knew apart from my old school mates who were very close to me – there was a lad called Herbert Sydney Keeton who was related to your chairman of the Whitwell Local History Group. Now Herbert Sydney Keeton was my form buddy and I used to help him with his Latin homework and he used to give me sweets but it seemed so sad to see this picture of all of these young hopeful lads and lasses in mid teens and to know as I know now that within 3 or 4 years they were going to be killed in the 2nd Great World War and it brought a great deal of happy memories but very, very sad ones too.
But looking at the rest of the photograph of course – several hundred pupils on this photograph – I saw one or two that I knew and one was Jessie Thomson, from Hodthorpe, one was Zoe Blagg, either Whitwell or Hodthorpe, I think they were at the farm, but I remember Zoe as a pretty little brown eyed girl as I think Jessie Thomson was too and there was also Jack Baker who kept the Fox House Dairy at Whitwell – his father did – there was Paul Bletcher whose father was the manager of the Kinema at Whitwell – and one or two others who were familiar but I can’t place them.
There was a lad called Don Mather from Whitwell I think he married a girl called Grainger from Belph and they moved into the Manor House at Whitwell for a short while but I can see his photograph amongst these and that set me thinking.
You see when you leave a district – I mean I left Hodthorpe and Whitwell School for Staveley for 4 years and lost some of my old mates at Hodthorpe and Whitwell School but then after that of course I went to work for a short time in Worksop at Montague Burtons in 1937 to 1939 then I left go into the aircraft industry in Coventry – the thing was that you lose touch with your roots to some extent – its now a matter of sentiment to me that in my eighties I am trying to recall some of those very happy times in Whitwell and apart from the names I have mentioned there were others who didn’t go to Staveley but I still remember them fondly.
There was Derek Mitchell in Queens Road at Hodthorpe just a few doors away from Moira’s??? bungalow. There was Ernest Whyles at Whitwell who I kept up a friendship with from my early teens anyway, and it is interesting to think that as I’m making this tape and thinking of those people many of them will still be there and still be around Whitwell. It must be heaven knows how many years since I left there – yes its 60 odd years – apart from coming back occasionally to see my parents – and since they died I think I have been once so I have lost touch and I am keen to renew acquaintances with some of the inhabitants of the village through the medium of this Local History Group.
There is one little interesting thing that I recall of about 40 years ago I suppose – I came over to see my mother and father at Hodthorpe and I left the car outside and eventually came out again to get something from the car and there was a little boy squirting a water pistol at the car - it was pretty new as I recall – and I spoke to him – "What are you up to?" and he looked witheringly at me and looked at his water pistol and he said "It wain’t ‘ot it it’s only watter" and I had to smile because I suppose I spoke like that when I was a little lad.
We were quite broad in Derbyshire and now of course with the advent of television I suppose everybody has altered a lot, I can’t believe that they still speak like that now. My uncle Alf Middleton did and it was quite a broad distinctive Derbyshire accent and today people say to me "Whereabouts do you come from? North somewhere? Are you Yorkshire?" and I say "No – Derbyshire" and I realise that when that little lad said that in the way that he did – I realised how far I had moved in language and spirit away from my days at Whitwell. Anyway I sincerely hope that some of the names I have mentioned are still there and happy and well and I often think very fondly of my early days in Whitwell.