Cropwell Bishop Streets: — Fern Road – Part 1 (11-12-20)
Why is it called Fern Road: an obvious answer would be that there are ferns growing all over the place. But there aren't – it is not like the Derbyshire hills around here.
Two hundred years ago it wasn't called Fern Road, it was called Mill Hill, for good reason: there was a windmill at the top of the hill. All very logical.
So why Fern Road.
Well, in the early 1900s, the house at the top of the hill, set back on the left, was the home of a man who was a nurseryman (he sold plants etc: he didn't look after young children).
He called his business, Fern Hill Nursery.
Now, did he call it that because his house was on top of Fern Hill, or was the road called Fern Hill because a nursery called Fern Hill Nursery was at the top. (Answers to me on a postcard please).
And, even if we did find the answer, we would still have to explain why, nowadays, it is called Fern Road rather than Fern Hill.
It is interesting to note that beyond the top of the hill is Fern Cottage and Fernhill Farm but it doesn't help us to solve the mystery.
Maybe we should just accept the name as it is, and just move on. That sounds a good idea.
Onwards we go ...
Around St Giles Church
The two small houses in front of the church were built in 1816. The land they occupied was described as waste land
At that time every parish had to take responsibility for the poor people living there. Monies were collected from a Poor Rate imposed on land owners in the parish.
These two houses were built to house two poor families in need of a home. Such houses were often referred to as Poorhouses.
The first occupants were Thomas Morrel and Ann Hicks and, as a result, the houses were often referred to as, Morrel Cottage and Hicks Cottage.
The larger house, Morrel’s, was built from 1600 bricks and Hicks’ from 500 bricks. The total cost of bricks and the lime was under £4.
They were demolished in the 1960s.
By the School
Near Stockwell Lane
Thanks to Anne Terzza, Pam Barlow and Jane Jones for their help with this article.
Cropwell Bishop Streets: — Fern Road – Part 2 (18-12-20)
A short history of Number 9
The above photograph was taken in 1968. The parents of Frank Fogg had lived there but by 1953 both had died and Frank inherited the property.
However, in 1967 Frank decided to have the old house demolished and have a bungalow for himself built in its place.
You can see the newly built bungalow standing behind the old house. The house was demolished later that year.
Then, in 2009, the bungalow was sold and was itself demolished to make way for the two homes that were built in 2010.
Whilst the site looks so different today, not all traces of the past have been erased. Look carefully at the photo of the new houses taken in 2020, and you will notice the dropped kerbstone remains from the time when there was a driveway to the bungalow.
The Manor House and Farm
Number 46: Owthorpe Cottage
Once the home of George and Dorothy Wright who lived here during the mid-20th Century when the house was called Owthorpe Cottage.
Their daughter, Jean, was born in 1925 and grew up there. In 1951 Jean married and moved to Keyworth where she had a son, Richard.
Richard has fond memories of the times he visited his grandparents at Owthorpe Cottage. He recalls them in an article he wrote, "My Grandparents – a Memory of Cropwell Bishop". Here is what he had to say:
They moved there before the Second World War and had two children, Dick and Jean.
Dick was based at Wick and died in the war. Jean, my mum, married and had me and my sister.
I have wonderful memories of Cropwell Bishop as a child. Exploring the countryside towards the gypsum tip. The Barlow's butchers shop on a Saturday mornings. Wilf, the postman, the bread man from the next village, the Barton bus into Nottingham coming down the hill.
There was the man who repaired the shoes in the village in a wonderful hut, and I remember all the excitement of the Point-to-Point races at Easter.
My grandfather worked in the Lace Trade in Nottingham and then at Cotgrave Colliery. My grandmother looked after the garden and the hens and my mum had a job as a girl in a bank in Nottingham.
She has now died, although my dad is still alive and lives in Tollerton. I now live with my family in Huddersfield. I always think back to those wonderful summer days of my childhood.
Cropwell Bishop was such a lovely place and Barlow's cows coming down the hill to be milked in the afternoon summed up its glorious tranquillity.
My mum spoke of planes from Langar flying so low over the village and all the American airmen and the village dances. I think my grandparents had lots of airmen stay with them and I also remember stories of the pig they kept and eventually had slaughtered to provide a feast of meat in war-rationed England.
When my grandmother died, my grandfather, George, went to live in Keyworth near to my mum and dad.
When in Nottingham I always have a drive past the old house, I would love to go in but perhaps the memories suffice. I remember the lady who lived in the cottage near to the house called Mrs Atter. Those cottages still survive, as does a bit of the orchard where so many apples and pears were collected.
Fond, beautiful memories."
Up the hill
Like almost every old village, Cropwell Bishop once had its own windmill.
The best place for one is on top of a hill and so, the top of Fern Road was the spot chosen for our windmill.
Once the windmill was built, it was only natural for people to call the place (and road), Mill Hill.
We don't know when a windmill first appeared here, but one is mentioned in records for 1686. However, since a mill between Tythby and Cropwell Butler is mentioned in records as far back as 1553, it seems likely there was also one in Cropwell Bishop in those days.
We know that in 1849, the latest version was spinning here (is 'spinning' the right word?). That year, the miller, a man named Johnson, was very lucky one day as he milled corn: he was lucky not to be killed! On that day a gale wrecked the windmill around him.
The incident may well have given Mr Johnson a fright, because by the time the mill was repaired and working again, the miller was a George Bonser. He had moved from Colston Bassett and brought along an apprentice, 14-year-old Silar North, to assist him.
That was in 1851, but in 1860 the windmill was once again making headlines. A gale blew the mill down and an apprentice miller was very lucky not to be blown to heaven with it.
Later that same year, a new corn mill opened in Cropwell Bishop, but it wasn't built on the hill, but down in the village. This was because it didn't need the wind: it was powered by steam.
The windmill on top of the hill was never repaired. That January gale on 1860 had brought over 300 years of windmilling in Cropwell Bishop to a sudden end. But if that gale hadn't stopped the windmill, it seems likely that the power of steam would have done so anyway.
In addition, local young men were probably discussing the health and safety record of the windmill during the 1850s and concluding that there were probably safer ways of earning a living – coal mining maybe.
As they sat around their pints in the Wheatsheaf, their language would, no doubt, have been rather more colourful, but their conclusion the same.
Would it be safer working in the new steam powered cornmill, they may have wondered. If you have read the street story for Mill Lane, you will know the answer to that.
The end result of this sequence of events was that "Mill Hill" would become history, and "Mill Lane" would take over its name – but it would take a long time.
This house was the home of Fern Hill Nursery during the 20th Century and during Second Word War, the Robinson family live here.
There were two daughters and the eldest was Jean Robinson, who was nine years old when the war started. Jean wrote down her memories of those days: here is her story,
"Memories of Cropwell Bishop in War-time".
"I was 9 years old when the war started in 1939.
One of my first memories is seeing my Mother sticking strips of brown paper on our living room window, this was to prevent splinters of glass being blown into the room in the event of a bomb exploding nearby, she also made curtains into blackout material to stop any light showing, she stitched some brightly coloured braid near the hem to make them look a little less dreary.
A big impact on our school lives was the arrival of the evacuees. Some came from Nottingham and some from Gt Yarmouth. Our little school was overcrowded so for a short while some pupils had their lessons in the Memorial Hall.
I remember two teachers who came with the children from Gt Yarmouth but later there was a shortage of teachers which made the situation difficult for Mr Kirk (Headmaster) and Miss Towle (Infant Teacher) who were the main staff.
Equipment was in short supply. Every inch of our exercise books (including the covers) had to be used and pencils worn down to the last half inch before we could ask for a replacement.
We had to carry our gas masks with us to school and occasionally had to wear them while we did lessons.
When the air raid warning sounded, the children who lived near the school were sent home. Those of us who lived further away went to friends houses. I went to Mrs Allen who lived opposite the Church.
In 1941 several bombs were dropped at Cropwell Bishop but they landed in fields so there was no damage to houses or people. However, in the same year, Cropwell Butler was bombed killing three people.
Soon after the war started an Army Searchlight Camp was established in the field on the South side of Fern Road, just over the top of what was then known as Mill Hill.
My Dad dug out an air raid shelter but we didn’t use it much as it was so cold and damp, so we took refuge under the table during air raids.
Men from the village rallied to the call for Local Defence Volunteers (later called the Home Guard). My Dad joined and had to attend training sessions and manoeuvres.
There was also a band of people who acted as Air Raid Wardens and Fire Watchers, They would take turns to fire watch at night and make sure there were no lights showing.
In these days of good street lighting and brightly lit windows it is difficult to picture the village in complete darkness on a Winters evening.
The 'Dig for Victory' Campaign meant that flower gardens were dug up to plant vegetables and fruit.
Word got around that all the roses were being discarded at a Nursery on the Fosse so my Dad went on his bike to collect as many as he could carry and they flowered well in our garden for years.
Living in the country was a big advantage where food was concerned. Most people grew vegetables and fruit in their gardens or on an allotment. Some people were able to keep hens or a pig. When a pig was killed basins of 'fry' would be given away.
The fields and hedgerows provided mushrooms and blackberries. Sticks would be collected for firewood and gleanings from the cornfields for feeding the hens".
This fine house, in a commanding position on top of the hill, played a role in the defence of the village during the Second World War.
Jean Robinson, in her story (above) about life during that War, mentioned an Army Searchlight Camp.
A large searchlight was installed on Fern Hill, in one of the fields near number 58 Fern Road, and it is understood that the Government sequestered this garage beside the house.
It seems likely, they needed somewhere safe and dry for soldiers to store tools and equipment associated with the searchlight and so the garage became part of the 'Searchlight Camp'.
The house has been occupied by members of the Heaselden family. It was Sam Heaselden who owned gypsum mines and the 'Heaselden Works' on Nottingham Road in the days when gypsum could be transported to Nottingham by canal boat. A long time ago.
Cropwell Bishop Allotments
Over the top of Fern Hill, the pavement on the right comes to an end at a bridlepath. This wide path leads to open fields but it is not a public right-of-way.
In the 1930s it led to village allotments in a field on the left but in the following decades it eventually returned to farmland.
Apparently, a field further down the bridlepath was made good use of during the Second World War. A large tent was pitched there and the Territorial Army soldiers, who were in charge of the 'Searchlight Camp' described above, used it for their dining.
In 2009, the Cropwell Bishop Village Plan was launched and it included a proposal to establish an Allotment Site in the parish.
Because the parish council did not own any open land, it was necessary to approach local landowners in the search for a suitable site.
In the end, it was village farmer, Richard Barlow, who offered to let some of his land and it turned out that it was the same field that had been used in 1930, the one down this track.
The Cropwell Bishop Allotment Association was established in May 2010 and has maintained a healthy number of members ever since.
The lockdown of 2020 caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, resulted in an increase in interest in allotment growing.
This left few vacant plots but it is anticipated that some will become available in 2021.
Once the Home of a Footballing Legend
Older Nottingham Forest fans living in Cropwell Bishop, will be well aware of who once lived here.
Stuart Pearce played 401 games for Nottingham Forest over a 12-year period and, for most of that time, he lived in this house.
Brian Clough signed him from Coventry City in 1985 and he soon showed his grit determination as a Forest defender. Few opponents got past him with the ball.
He established himself as the Forest captain and it was clear to both spectators and fellow players that he did not like losing matches and demanded the same mindset of his team mates.
In spite of his 'iron man' image on the pitch (Psycho was his nickname), Stuart Pearce showed a very different side to his personality away from football.
He would generally avoid attracting attention to himself and I once saw him politely allow a person to move ahead of him in the queue at Asda without even a frown. I can only assume that the young woman did not recognise Psycho.
When a recycling lorry overturned onto the roof of his car as he drove along the Stragglethorpe Road, he was lucky to avoid death. That he escaped with only minor hand injuries and a stiff back only added to his reputation as a hard-man.
Nevertheless, it was his uncompromising defensive play, scoring ability from free kicks, and his leadership qualities on the pitch that won him praise, 78 England caps and eventually captaincy of the England team.
I believe he and his wife, Elizabeth, and their daughter moved out in 1997 when he left Nottingham Forest. I am not aware of the state of the house at the time, but I expect all the electrics were in good condition.
Before he became a professional footballer, Stuart was an electrician. Even after Brian Clough signed him, so unsure was he of his footballing future that he actually included a commercial advert for his work as an electrician in the Forest match-day programme!
Doctor in the house – at one time
Thanks to Anne Terzza, Pam Barlow, Jean Robinson, Richard Booth, Philip Johnson, Jonathan Good and Jane Jones for their help with this article.