The Canary Girls of Chilwell (30-9-18)
At the Heritage Group open meeting on Monday 24th September the story behind this intriguing was revealed by our speaker, local historian and author Maureen Rushton.
Maureen explained how in the First World War British troops fighting on the frontline were being overwhelmed by the volume of the ordnance being fired by the opposition. Lord Kitchener decided to increase the amount of artillery to be provided to our troops, and one of his actions was to order the building of a new shell-filling factory. Chilwell was selected as an ideal site, and after the issue of a Compulsory Purchase Order the factory was built at a cost of £3 million.
The man Kitchener put in charge of the Chilwell factory was Godfrey Chetwynd, later Viscount Chetwynd, and one of his first actions was to construct a circular road around the site to increase security. Our speaker pointed out that this was the first of a number of measures taken by Chetwynd without consultation with the appropriate Authorities!
At its height the workforce reached the 10,000 mark, comprising 6000 men and 4000 women. The rate of production of live shells from the factory was remarkable, so much so that it prompted a visit from King George V and his entourage. This visit was followed by numerous visits by notable dignitaries, much to the annoyance of Chetwynd who saw this as a hindrance to shell production.
Employees at the shell filling factory were well looked after. They were provided with regular meal breaks, and various sporting and recreational events were organised. However, although medical facilities and supervision were provided, exposure to the toxic explosive mixtures did take its toll. Besides a number of medical problems, Maureen explained that the handling of these materials caused skin to turn yellow, and black hair became green. Hence the term `Canary Girls`.
Although there had been several instances when small explosions had occurred during the shell filling operations, no-one was prepared for the disastrous event on July 1st 1918 when 8 tonnes of TNT spontaneously ignited. Tragically, 134 people died as a result of this explosion, while a further 250 were injured. The severity of this incident was felt in the surrounding areas, and even the level of the nearby river was temporarily affected. Investigations into the incident only led to speculation. Some blame was laid on a few electricians who had been recently dismissed, while others questioned whether the IRA was responsible. Production resumed very quickly and nothing was ever proved.
Many of the casualties could not be identified, and were buried in a mass grave in the churchyard in nearby Attenborough. A monument has been erected there as a tribute to those who died in support of the War Effort. Maureen Rushton`s story was both informative and moving, and was fully appreciated by the large audience who came to listen to her talk.
Celebration Weekend at Heritage Centre
Once again, the Heritage Group made their contribution to the Celebration Weekend by opening the doors of the Parish Room for visitors to view this year`s exhibition.
Since 2018 marked 100 years from the end of the First World War, it was with this in mind that the Heritage Group Committee agreed that it would be fitting to commemorate the part played by the men and women of the village in this tragic conflict.
After a great deal of research by several members of the Committee it was found that over a hundred men from the village and surroundings had been involved in the Hostilities. Out of this number, sadly, twenty did not return, and the main purpose of the display in the Parish Room was to pay tribute to those who died at this time. This was achieved by the setting up of 16 display boards on which were described in words and pictures the lives of these men and the families they left behind.
Today, in towns and villages across the country, the remaining members of many families have stories to tell of the bravery and the loss of their loved ones. This was made only too clear from the reactions and the comments of the visitors who came to view the display. It was also an opportunity for those Heritage Group Committee members who were present during the opening hours of the exhibition to learn more from discussions with the visitors, some of whom were more than willing to share their own family experiences.
Over the weekend, 67 people visited the Parish Room to view the exhibition, and in a number of instances were clearly moved by what they saw. Although the subject of the display presented a somewhat sombre note, it was felt by visitors and committee members alike that it was a deeply relevant experience, and one which helped to bring back lost memories of happier occasions.
Life and Times in the Workhouse (29-3-18)
The latest talk In the Heritage Group's series of Open Meetings took place in the Memorial Hall at 7.30pm on Tuesday 27 March.
Our speaker for the evening was Colin Deeley, who regularly addresses Family and Local History groups in our area on a number of subjects. Colin`s theme for the evening was based on the history of the Workhouse in Southwell and how its inmates fared under the system. As a volunteer at this National Trust property he is particularly familiar with his subject.
The Workhouse at Southwell is regarded as a blueprint for the ~ 600 establishments which existed across the length and breadth of the country for many years. It was in a poor state when it was acquired by the National Trust in around 1998, and they set about renovation work with help from a Lottery Grant.
Going back to the beginning, the idea of support for the poor and needy was first created after 1601, when what became known as the Old Poor Law was established. For the next 200 years this took the form of payment in kind, for basics such as food, clothing and other vital necessities. However, when this became unsustainable in cost terms, the process was changed in 1795 to providing cash payments, the so-called ‘outpayments’.
Even so, in 1834 it was recognised that outpayment costs could be radically reduced by housing the deserving and infirm together, and the concept of the Workhouse was born, under the auspices of the New Poor Law. At this point in his talk, Colin pointed out that the old Nottingham Workhouse still exists, but now serves as a Baptist church.
The format of a Workhouse was made standard. There was a Master and a Matron in charge and they had to be a married couple! In addition, there was a Clerk, a Chaplain and a Medical Officer to look after the health of the inmates. Also, two Schoolteachers were employed to educate the children of the Workhouse for four hours each morning, while afternoons were devoted to learning a trade.
Throughout the Workhouse the practice of segregation of men, women and children applied, as well as separation of the Able-bodied from the Old and Infirm. However, `socialising` was permitted between 6pm and 8pm each day.
Other facilities were provided, such as exercise yards, and also buildings to provide shelter if weather was bad – so that work could be continued. Otherwise, work was hard. For the Able- bodied men this consisted mainly of breaking stone to a small enough size to be used for road- building. The worst job, generally left to women, was the unpicking of tarred ships ropes, called Oakum, for resale by the Master. This was beneficial, however, since the Master often spent the proceeds on the inmates. Hence the saying “Money for old rope”.
The Workhouse also could accommodate vagrants. These were originally allowed to stay for one night, and were each allocated a blanket and a wooden board to sleep on. Thus originated the term “ Bed and board”. Later, the stay was extended to two nights to allow vagrants some time to look for work in the locality. In the same way, the able-bodied men were allowed to go out on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the purpose of finding work.
The same rules and regulations applied to all Workhouses, and these were displayed for all to see. However, since most inmates were illiterate, the rules and regulations were also read out to them at appropriate intervals The running of the Workhouse was overseen by 62 appointed Guardians, who were obliged to meet at the Workhouse every two weeks. In practice, there were rarely more than 11 attendees at these meetings.
Accommodation in the Workhouse was sparse. The Master and Matron had their own furnished rooms, complete with a flushing toilet, while the boys` and girls` dormitories were situated on either side of these rooms so that they could get help if needed. There was also a necessary item – the mortuary, known as `The Dead Room`! since the Workhouse originally were responsible for the burial of its inmates. Later, this responsibility was taken over by the Parish Authorities.
To bring the story up to date, Colin concluded his talk by describing the subsequent improvements to the Workhouse facilities. Firstly, a new mortuary was built in the 1920`s, followed by a second and then a third infirmary. The Workhouse, along with the system, finally closed at the beginning of 1930, when the building was converted to bedsits for women and children. This was discontinued in 1977, although the last occupiers left in 1987. As Colin explained, the National Trust then acquired the building in 1998, when they set about restoring it for future generations to enjoy.
A splendid and informative presentation which was well- deserving of the final applause from the members and visitors.
Bygone Shops and Shopping in Nottingham
On Monday November 13th the latest of the Heritage Group`s Open Meetings was held at the Old School in Cropwell Bishop.
The well -known local speaker, Chris Weir, was invited to address members and visitors on the subject of “Bygone Shops and Shopping in Nottingham”. This was a subject which had gained a popular vote at the members AGM, and Chris certainly did not disappoint.
He began his presentation by displaying a street map of Nottingham published in 1610 by the famous mapmaker John Speed.
It was surprising just how many street names survive to this day, and this allowed Chris to point out that in the earliest times Nottingham was a divided city.
There were essentially two boroughs, Norman and Anglo-Saxon. The Norman trading centre was based on what is now the Market Square, while the Anglo-Saxon market was situated around Weekday Cross.
Over several centuries, this division has disappeared with shops and shopping centres developing in line with the growth of the city and according to the needs of the shopping public. Still the Market Square area remains a popular place for the bigger stores, and in the 18th and 19th centuries a great deal of trade was carried out there. Our speaker produced the facts and figures which illustrated this.
The month of October was a particularly busy time, not only because of Goose Fair, but because farmers and other traders from outlying villages brought in their goods and livestock for sale.
Sheep were driven in along what was then `Sheep Street`, while cattle came in via `Cow Lane`! As still remains the case today, food prices were of great concern, and it was recorded in 1766 that there was a Cheese Riot, which by all accounts was a very bloodthirsty affair! Octobers in those days also did not pass without a big increase in crime in these crowded areas.
From about the 1850`s shops and shopping began to develop in a way more in line with changing needs of society. So, for example, a certain Mr. Jessop, (first name Zebedee!), had the famous Nottingham architect Watson Fothergill design and build him a large store on King Street.
Other big stores followed. A large store, Dickinsons, built in 1846, was then bought out by the Store Manager, Mr. Griffin and the Lace Buyer, Mr. Spalding to form probably the best known store in the Market Square, now occupied by Debenhams.
Chris Weir then went on to outline the stories behind a number of names which marked the beginning of modern shops and shopping in Nottingham.
- Burtons (closed in 1983)
- Beecrofts (opened in1890)
- Lewis & Grundy
- Sisson & Parker
- Mikado Café
- Pearsons (1889)
- Redmayne & Todd
- Shaw & Shrewsbury
- Wilkinsons (Wilko`s)
- Woolworths (closed in 2008)
And many others.
Not to be forgotten, of course, are some of the names which originated in Nottingham and then gained national and international status. Boots, which began as a small chemist`s shop in Hockley, now has worldwide status in both retail and medicinal research areas. Players, (now recently closed), boosted its cigarette sales dramatically by the use of a brand name -`Navy Cut`- while Raleigh followed a different path by its support of well-known cycling stars such as Reg Harris and Beryl Burton.
What of the future? Chris Weir ended his talk by showing a photograph of the beginning of the demolition of Broadmarsh Centre. No doubt what will follow will mark a further step forward in shops and shopping in Nottingham.
Albert Ball – Nottingham's WW1 Ace Fighter Pilot (24-9-17)
On Tuesday evening, September 19th, the Heritage Group Committee welcomed Mr. Peter Hammond to the Memorial Hall to give his talk on that famous son of Nottingham, Albert Ball.
More than 30 people came to listen to the talk, and it was especially pleasing that two descendants from Albert Ball`s family were also present in the audience. Vincent Armstrong and Vanda Day are Albert's great nephew and great niece respectively.
Although it is true to say that we all know something about Albert Ball, Peter Hammond gave a comprehensive account of his early life, his developing interest and involvement in flying, and his many valiant deeds during the WW1 conflict. Peter also threw in a number of observations of Albert`s personal life, including his relationships with several members of the opposite sex!
Albert`s story was told through the many letters he wrote, mostly to his father but also to his girlfriends at the time. Peter took us through this correspondence which began when he was a schoolboy, particularly when he was a boarder at Trent College. As a student he displayed only average ability, while his main interests lay in more practical pursuits such as engineering.
Following the outbreak of the First World War, Albert, aged 17, enlisted in the British Army and in his keenness to get into the action soon transferred to the North Midlands Cyclists Company. This, however, did not satisfy his thirst for real adventure over in France, and he began to take private flying lessons at Hendon Aerodrome. After some months of somewhat variable progress he finally gained his transfer to the Royal Flying Corps and became a fully-fledged pilot.
It was from this point that his skill as a fighter pilot really blossomed. In his career he flew a variety of planes, and although he liked some more than others, he achieved consistent success in combat.
Peter gave us an account of many of Albert`s missions and contact with the enemy, and although there were a number of occasions when he only just managed to limp home in badly-damaged aircraft, it was clear from his continued correspondence that he was still enjoying the action. Words such as 'ripping' and 'topping' occurred frequently in his letters home!
In the meantime, honours and tributes to his skills and achievement continued to accumulate, and in 1917 he was made an Honorary Freeman of Nottingham. In his military career promotions also followed until he received the title of Captain. It was around this time that on one of his spells of leave he met an 18-year old Flora Young and within a few months they became engaged. However, it was beginning to be clear that Albert was wearying of war, and in his last letter to his father he described himself as 'feeling like a murderer'.
It was also in May 1917 that Albert's luck finally ran out. He and his squadron encountered a number of German fighter planes near Douai. In the ensuing dogfight Albert's plane was last seen falling upside down towards the ground in a pall of black smoke. When he was found by the Germans he was badly injured and already dead
Albert Ball was buried not far from where he fell, alongside other German casualties. l The Germans erected a cross over his grave in Annoeullin Cemetery, near Lille, as their tribute to this courageous pilot.
Back in England, he was posthumously awarded a VC to add to his DSO's. Other tributes soon followed, and to this day a monument to Albert Ball can be seen in the grounds of Nottingham Castle.
Peter Hammond's talk was both entertaining and informative, richly illustrated by the letters from his personal collection, and it is thanks to him that his audience left having learned a great deal more about one of Nottingham's most famous sons.
Heritage: Celebration Weekend (22-7-17)
As in previous years, the Heritage Group opened up the Parish Room for their contribution to the Celebration Weekend.
This year, their exhibition centred on a display of the history of some of the Cropwell Village families. Family trees of several well-known families were shown, along with some interesting stories related to their lives.
Almost 60 people visited the exhibition, and the committee members in attendance were kept busy both answering questions and receiving information from the visitors.
Also on display was our collection of old household, kitchen and other items which had been in regular use in the village over the last 200 or so years. These were of great interest to old and young alike, although the younger visitors were more than a little puzzled by some of the items on display!
Overall, the exhibition proved very successful, and it helped to raise awareness of the importance of maintaining the extensive history and heritage of the village we live in today.
Village Celebration Weekend (23-6-17)
As our contribution to the Celebration Weekend we will be opening up the Parish Room on Saturday 1st July from 10am to 4pm and on Sunday 2nd July from 10am to 12noon for a new exhibition entitled ‘Village Families and Places’.
From the many families we could have included in the displays we have selected just a few to illustrate the various ways in which they have been a part of village life. Some have been landowners, some have provided employment for villagers, while others have taken prominent roles in the local church, school or parish council.
Come and take a look at the exhibits, which will include details of the family trees. Talk to the committee members who will be on hand to answer your questions. You may find that you are related to someone you never knew about!
Nottingham's Lace-Making Heritage (4-10-16)
On Tuesday 27th September Heritage Group members and visitors attended an illustrated talk on Nottingham`s central role in the development of the lace-making industry.
The talk was given by Dr. Amanda Briggs- Goode, who is the Head of the Department of Textiles, Fashion and Knitwear at Nottingham Trent University.
Amanda began her talk by summarising the history of lace- making in our area from its beginnings in 1589 to the present day. She told us how in the early 20th century there was as many as 60,000 people employed in all aspects of lace production. It was interesting too to learn that `Nottingham` lace can be produced anywhere in the world, since it is simply a type of lace first developed by Nottingham lace manufacturers to combine the best features of machine-made lace with handmade lace.
In the 1830`s the Nottingham lace industry received a boost when the Government of that time recognised the importance of maintaining and improving the quality of British manufactured products. In Nottingham in 1843 this initiative provided a grant to set up the School of Design in what is now Heathcote street. This proved such a success that in 1863 a new building was commissioned to house the Nottingham School of Art and Design – the Waverly Building. This familiar building still houses the School which is now incorporated into Nottingham Trent University.
After World War one, significant changes in fashion took place, which meant that far less lace was used on clothing. This prompted manufacturers to look for new applications and outlets for lace, and they turned to the School of Art and Design for ideas. The move proved so beneficial that today there is still a number of students in the Waverley Building working on new lace designs.
Of course, as Amanda told us, the heritage of lace designs, samples and books is far from forgotten and it provides a valuable resource for her students to refer to. Their archive is reputed to contain 75,000 items, ranging from the oldest - a 16th century piece of Venetian lace - to the most recent collections.
Some of these later collections have international significance. William H. Pegg was an innovative lace designer, whose collection on his death in 1946 was bought by the School for 100 guineas. After WW2 Harry Cross was famous for designing the Battle of Britain Panel, which measured 450cm by 162cm. and took three years to make. This depicted scenes from that war and led to 35 copies being made and sent to various locations, eg. Commomwealth countries, throughout the world. One copy has also been retained in the archives of Nottingham castle.
Around Nottingham, although the golden age of lace-making has long passed, there is still evidence remaining. While everyone is familiar with the imposing manufacturers` buildings in the Lace Market, a walk along Broadway still shows some evidence of lace working in the buildings in which the small shops are now located. More recently, the exterior panelling of the Contemporary Art Gallery in Weekday Cross can be seen to contain decoration which reflects traditional lace design.
Finally, Amanda said that their LACE HERE:NOW exhibition, which was on display from September 2012 to February 2013, is to be held again at some point in the not too distant future. Something to look out for!
Such an interesting talk with so much information, and Chairman David Sibley acknowledged this when giving his thanks to Dr. Briggs-Goode.
Distant Relatives Meet (16-7-16)
Distant cousins Ken Shelton and Ray Shelton have just met for the first time here in Cropwell Bishop.
While Ken has lived in the village for just a year, Ray has lived for most of his 87 years on the south coast in Worthing.
Ray and his friend Tom made the trip up north specifically to attend a funeral in Ollerton, but took the opportunity to come over to Cropwell to meet Ken. They were also introduced to Anne Terzza and Ken`s wife Margaret, who have spent a lot of time piecing together the family history of the Sheltons of Cropwell Bishop.
Both Ken and Ray have a common ancestor from several generations back. Robert Shelton was born in 1760 and married Sarah Waite in 1783. Robert died in1809 and Sarah followed in 1818. Their headstones can still be seen standing side by side in St. Giles churchyard.
Ray was impressed with his visit and has pledged to return to the village soon to learn more about the Shelton family and their lives and times in Cropwell Bishop.
Nottingham in the Great War (23-5-16)
On Tuesday 17 May, and following the Heritage Group`s Annual General Meeting, the 35 members who attended the meeting enjoyed an illustrated talk by local author Carol Lovejoy Edwards.
Carol, who has recently published her book entitled "Nottingham in the Great War", presented a detailed account of how the outbreak of World War 1 affected everyone`s lives in Nottingham and the surrounding areas.
Against a background of the actions of the Suffragette Movement coupled with the Irish problem, the mood in Nottingham could only be lightened by the visit of King George V and Queen Mary in 1914. The royal couple stayed at Welbeck Abbey as guests of the Duke of Portland, although Carol added that his previous guests had been Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Kaiser Wilhelm!
At the beginning of the war there was much for the authorities in Nottingham to consider. A Sherwood Foresters regiment due to leave for France was suddenly diverted to Ireland and the Council held a debate on whether Goose Fair should be called off. They decided that it should go ahead, but the following year the fair was indeed cancelled. Many men volunteered to go to the front, while at home with supplies affected food shortages soon developed, leading to an increase in queues, hoarding and petty crime.
Soon Nottingham had to deal with injured soldiers returning for treatment and an influx of Belgian refugees. As a result, medical and social facilities became stretched. However, there were a number of benefactors helping out and large companies such as Boots and Players also provided support, notably for the soldiers fighting at the front.
Meanwhile, in 1916, the war came to Nottingham in the shape of two Zeppelin raids. The first was ineffective, with bombs being dropped in fields outside of the city. The second, however, was more serious, with a number of hits in the Meadows area.
While the recruitment campaign saw no shortage of volunteers in the early stages, as the war progressed conscription was introduced. Carol gave examples of a number of excuses which were put forward to the conscription committee but these were rejected without exception.
In the absence of so many men, and with all employment changing to aid the war effort, Carol described how the role of women also changed significantly. While some women went off to war, the others left behind took over the mens`jobs. One notable example was the creation of the Land Army. Women also worked in the two munitions factories in Nottingham. This was a hazardous job, and many were killed in the explosion at the Chilwell shell filling factory, when 134 lives were lost. Carol told us that the victims were buried in a mass grave at St. Mary`s church in Attenborough.
Carol concluded her talk with one final fact. When the war came to an end in 1918 this did not mean that those who had been serving at the front were swiftly demobilised since peace was not officially declared until the Treaty of Versailles in 1919.
At the end of her talk Carol was congratulated by Chairman David Sibley for providing members with such an interesting and informative presentation.
Snapshot of Photographic History (21-11-15)
Last Tuesday, well known to a number of people in the audience, Sue Clayton from the Flintham Museum treated the Heritage Group to a fascinating journey through the history of photography from the earliest times to the Box Brownie and beyond.
Although faced with a howling gale, 25 brave souls battled their way to the Memorial Hall to listen Sue`s talk and were rewarded with a most interesting presentation.
Before photography, the only way to have one`s likeness reproduced was through the painting of a portrait. But, of course , this remained almost exclusive to royalty and the aristocracy. What was needed was a way of producing images of places and people easily and without great expense so that these became within reach of the general population, but it wasn`t until the 1800`s that this began to become a reality.
Along the way, some progress had been made. As expected for a man before his time, Leonardo da Vinci had demonstrated how light from an image passing through a pinhole could be seen on a card on the other side, albeit upside down. The Frenchman Daguerre had devised a system to produce an image on a copper plate, but it was Henry Fox-Talbot in England who developed a method of creating a negative which then allowed multiple photographic copies to be made.
Such were these advances that by the mid 1880`s the first photographic studios were being set up, where people could get their photo taken at an affordable cost. But, as Sue explained, this was still no easy matter. The subject, having turned up in his or her Sunday best were first of all `assessed`.
This meant that if the clothes that they were wearing were of an unsuitable colour for the photographic process, they would be asked to change into other ones held at the studio, and these were often ill-fitting and uncomfortable, They would then be led to a room at the top of the building which would be entirely constructed of glass so as to maximise the light. They would be turned to be facing the light and then be clamped into position for the exposure, which could take about 2 minutes . During this time the subject had to maintain the same expression. At this point in her talk, Sue called for a volunteer to try this out but he failed after a little over a minute! As Sue said, this strict procedure explains why the old photographs of our ancestors have them looking so stern.
Developments then went on apace with the first photographers experimenting with different method and photographic media. Many died young, most likely through exposure to the toxic chemicals they worked with. But through their efforts modern photography was born. Costs were reduced, the first cameras preloaded with film became available, and with exposure times dramatically reduced taking photographs became a popular pastime. Sales of photograph albums soared, as people stored the photos they had taken, convenient for family viewing and discussions. Now we have entered the digital age where will this take us in the future?
Sue concluded her talk by leaving us to ponder that question, and it was only left for Ann Mansell to thank her on behalf of the audience for giving us such an absorbing presentation.
If you would like to find out more about the activities of the Heritage Group, contact Ann Mansell (tel: 989-2770)