The Magazine of Lenton Local History Society

Lenton Times Issue 2 - May 1989

Hillside Recollections - Taylor Made

After talking to Jack Hill, now aged 86, Keith Taylor wrote down some of Jack's recollections of his childhood here in Lenton before the First World War.

Jack Hill was born and brought up at No 44 Hillside, one in a row of terraced houses which looked out on to the Nottingham Canal. Even in those days it wasn't all that picturesque a spot, as Nottingham Corporation had one of its building depots across on the land which was later to house the Western Tennis Club. This didn't seem to put off the moorhens or the pair of mute swans that regularly nested in among the reeds alongside the depot wall, almost opposite the Hills' family home. In summer the swans, along with their young cygnets, would file past the coal-laden barges and narrow boats which had just negotiated the lock on the other side of the Derby Road beside Lenton Lodge.

See in Lightbox
The canal at Hillside. The date given is the 1920s, but the large
building on Hillside came down to make way for the row of terrace
houses, so the photo, courtesy of Nottinghamshire County Library
Service, is considerably earlier.

In winter, whenever ice began to form on the canal surface, 'ice-breaker' boats made their appearance. Jack was always fascinated by these huge steel barges manned by their crews of six men employed to rock the boat from side to side and so most capitalised during a 'freeze-up' were the ice cream sellers. After the ice layer had been broken up these men would appear and using poles with hooks on the end, ease large chunks over to the canal bank and then lift the pieces out in their gloved hands and place them in tubs, brought there by handcart or on barrows. Their catches were wheeled back to their homes or business premises and stored there to be packed into iceboxes and meat safes. The ice was later transferred into a box holding quantities of iced lollies with the intention of keeping these in good condition while pedalling a boxed bicycle and selling these wares along the road.

One end of Hillside led to Derby Road, the other to Spring Close and via the wooden sided canal bridge on to Leengate. Jack recalled the bell which would sound out each weekday morning at five minutes to six and let those who worked at Bayley's skin yard on Leengate know that it was time for work. It next sounded at eight fifteen to inform the workforce that the breakfast break was now over and the factory should resume its work. The chimes of the bell continued throughout the day, until the final one sounded at six in the evening and everyone could depart for home. Mr Bayley, the factory owner in those days, was frequently to be seen being driven around in his horse drawn carriage. Despite his obvious prosperity he was reputed never once to have missed giving a coin to any of the beggars who lived and slept within the shadows of his factory or beside the canal bridge.

One day each year, as the early autumn mists were beginning to settle on the canal, every child and many an adult left their homes on Hillside and headed for the Derby Road in order to stand on the canal bridge or beside the Rose & Crown and watch the travelling wagons of Bostock and Wombwell's menagerie entering Nottingham. Huge yellow wagons housing such animals as lions, tigers, apes and sea lions passed in front of Jack and his friends, though none of these could actually be viewed, unlike the troop of elephants and camels that ambled along on their way to the show ground site on the Forest. With the imposing splendour of Lenton Lodge in the background it all seemed a little like a tale from the Arabian Nights.

Jack Hill's recollections will, we hope, be continued in a future issue

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