From 'The Lenton Listener' Issue 25
July - August 1983
Scene in Lenton
We have no date for this photograph, but if you can make out the style of the children's clothing, the advertising hoardings and notice the presence of concrete lamp posts, you may well agree that it was probably taken some time in the 1950s. The location ought to prove no problem at all as some of the buildings still stand, little changed. But if you're unfamiliar with the area - the photographer was pointing his camera towards the Gregory Street end of Abbey Street in Old Lenton.
Sir John Turney, born in 1838 and founder of Turney's leatherworks at Trent Bridge, was fond of relating that when he was very little, he was sent to a dame's school in Abbey Street for which his parents paid 2d per week. This educational establishment is believed to have been housed in the three-storey building on the right of the photograph. Quite how long this school functioned is unknown, but for most if its existence, the building (divided into two) must have been used as ordinary residences. Towards the end of its lifetime, the end house (No.2) became known locally as the 'cat' house. Mrs. Allen, the elderly occupant, had taken to giving a home to every stray cat and kitten in the neighbourhood. A kind deed, but one that caused her neighbours no end of problems. The building survived until as recently as 1974, when it was demolished. There was a proposal to build a shop in its place, but this came to nothing and the site remains vacant.
The building next door (Nos. 8 and 10) still stands, though since the time of the photograph, the windows of No.8 have been altered and the outside rendered. To the rear of these houses were once the crew yards belonging to the Roe farm on Leen gate. A crew yard was a confined space open to the sky in which cattle were kept and fed during the winter when they couldn't be allowed out into the fields.
The gaunt three storey building in the centre of the photograph would seem to date from the 1880s. There is no sign of it on the 1881 ordnance survey map yet from 1887 onwards the shops are included in the City directories. These directories show that for the first fifty years the proprietors of No.12, the last being a Mr. Charles Fisher, ran the shop as a drapers and haberdashers. For the last half century it has been a cycle shop, from 1979 the latest occupant being Les Westby's Lenton Cycles. Next door (No.14) began as a butcher’s, but very soon became a general shop. Sometime between 1913 and 1916 (not c. 1920 as we suggested in Issue 23) Mrs. Eleanor Twigg took on extra responsibilities when the Post Office business was transferred there from No.8 Leengate. The shop has remained Old Lenton's post office ever since.
It may be difficult to see from the photograph, but there are another two shops in the row of buildings on the left. In earlier years No.16 was variously a pawn brokers and a furniture shop, but most people will remember it as a fish and chip shop, run at different times by Harold Mayfield, Chas. Evans and Leslie Jones. No.22 remained resolutely the province of the boot repairer, for many years the business of George Rayson.
There was another shop - a hardware shop - at No. 30 just beyond the extent of the photograph. Alongside this was a narrow entrance that led to four small houses in a square, referred to in the directories as Choral Yard, but known locally as Newton's Yard - so called because the properties belonged to the Newton family who owned the hardware shop. Later a William Efford ran the shop. Between Nos. 14 and 16 and Nos. 22 and 24 were two other entrances to clusters of small premises built at the rear of the properties on the main street. These were known as Abbey Square and Priory Square respectively. The rest of the land was garages, gardens, allotments and farmers' fields. In the early part of the century the Co-op stabled all the horses that pulled their bread delivery vans at their premises on Abbey Street. So the local gardeners ought to have had a plentiful supply of manure to hand.
We are a little uncertain quite when this row of buildings came down. The gardeners were probably the first to go, when the allotments etc. at the rear were sold off. Edison Plant Hire stored their machinery in the area now used by Stephens and Carter, the scaffolding firm, while new premises for the Co-op plumbing department were built on the site of Newton's Yard in 1955. This building was extended in 1963 and became the present Co-op building and engineering department. At much the same time the Stephens and Carter offices were erected. So we must assume that most of the houses were demolished round about the early 1960s.
No doubt many approved their demolition, as many of the properties had become more than a little seedy looking and were generally in poor condition. A few may have been saddened at the passing of a little bit of 'old' Lenton. Those living in the immediate locality, however, lost the convenience of local shopping when the commercial premises disappeared. And in the succeeding years, they have witnessed the closure of the Co-op store (though they now have a wool shop in its place); the property which housed Harrison the Hairdresser looks unlikely to reopen and many are worried that the current review of sub post offices will lead to the announcement of the closure of the one on Abbey Street. Like Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians, they seem to be dying off one by one.