The Magazine of Lenton Local History Society

Derby Road - Lenton

From 'The Lenton Listener' Issue 39

April-May 1986

Hillside Blues

Fred Hilton spent most of his childhood and early adult years in one or other of the houses in the terrace which used to stand on Hillside. Now aged eighty one and living in Sherwood, Fred was recently prompted to send us his reminiscences of Lenton. This led to Fred and ourselves constructing the following article.

When I was about three we came from Leicester to live at No.58 Hillside in Old Lenton. This was in the terrace of houses that faced the Nottingham Canal and backed on to a set of allotments beyond which was Mr Suffolk's sand quarry. Between out terrace and Derby Road were two large houses, then two small cottages and finally Lyndale House which stands to this day.

The canal in those days was still in regular use, even in freezing weather. If ice began to form on the surface of the water, it wouldn't be long before the 'ice-cutter' made its appearance. This was a horse-drawn barge in which half a dozen men would stand and, holding on to a horizontal pole, rock the boat from side to side as it moved forward. The ice would be broken up and a channel kept open for the daily traffic. The ice cutter ensured that we never had the opportunity to use the canal as a skating rink, even in depths of winter. Instead we would traipse off to the King's Meadow to an area we called the swamps and there with skates screwed on to our boots send a happy, if cold, afternoon in comparative safety.

For a number of years I was in the choir of the Priory Church and loved to sing. In the summer some of my chorister friends and I were wont to gather on the bank of the canal, just up from Hillside, and sing popular songs of the day. Out of earshot of most people, we did it just for the sheer pleasure of singing. It's hard to imagine the young of today being similarly satisfied with such simple pleasures.

1970s view of Hillside

When I was thirteen years old, I got a Saturday job with Mr Oliver Ball, the butcher on Gregory Street. Most of the day I was employed delivering orders or cleaning out the shop. Towards the end of the day Mr Ball might sometimes tell me to get the pony and trap ready. Then loaded with cow-cake we would head for Wollaton Park, which then belonged to Lord Middleton. Being a private estate the general public were not permitted to enter the grounds but Mr Ball had rented a portion of land within the Park on which he grazed some cows. We would go in by the 'bottom' gate which was situated between the main lodge gates and the canal and there feed them their cake. On our return Mr Ball would stop off at the Three Wheatsheaves and I would have to wait outside with the pony and trap while he enjoyed a convivial drink inside.

Back in 1915 the Royal Show was held at Wollaton Park and this was one of those special occasions when the Park was thrown open to the paying public. It was a big occasion being graced by the presence of King George V and Queen Mary. I was too young to go but was told all about it by mother. She had heard that extra staff were needed in the refreshment marquees and successfully applied for a job. Although her employment at the Show was only of short duration, it was still sufficient to anger my father who hadn't been informed of my mother's intentions. He was firmly of the opinion that a woman's place was in the home.

During the First World War the Park was also a temporary home for a number of soldiers who had come down from the north, possibly Ripon. They camped in the Park for several weeks prior to their embarkation for the continent. A portion of the boundary wall on the Derby Road was actually demolished to give them access to the Park. When they arrived the soldiers looked in poor shape and many of the locals brought along jugs of tea and biscuits for them. When they eventually moved on, the gap in the wall was bricked up again.

'Tommy' Shipstone of Shipstone's brewery used to live further up the Derby Road at Lenton Firs and most mornings could be seen walking towards Lenton. Nothing odd in this, except that a few yards behind him would be his car driven by Mr Hall, his chauffeur. He used the Derby Road for his morning constitutional and on reaching the railway would get in to his car to be driven to the brewery at Basford. Local down and outs were well aware of Tommy's habits and that he was a soft touch. He was regularly approached and just as readily would reach into his pocket to hand out the odd copper.

The original Rose and Crown pub, which Tommy passed, would then have had no need to purchase Shipstone's beer, as it brewed its own on the premises. Occasionally I, or one of my friends, would be sent across to buy a pennyworth of barm (yeast) from the landlord, Everard Mills. This was for Mr Stevens, who ran the grocery and sweet shop situated within our terrace block on Hillside. He also went in for brewing, but his ginger beer plant produced a rather less potent product than that of Mr Mills. When ready the ginger beer was decanted into stoneware flagons, which were sold to us at a half penny a bottle. This sounds ludicrously cheap in comparison to today's prices, but remember five Woodbines and a match only cost a penny then.

After a number of years at No.58 Hillside we were required to leave. The owner of our house, a Miss Daft, needed the property for her own purposes; and so we moved to the St Ann's area. Mother didn't like our new home and, when the opportunity arose, we moved back to Hillside, this time to No.34. Like our other home at Hillside it had no bathroom, just an outside toilet in the backyard. By today's standards it would be considered far from satisfactory, but then it was what we were used to and we were happy there.

Even before I moved away from hillside in my early twenties the road began to undergo changes. The large detached houses, which now stand there, were built in about 1923 by W.J. Norris. The two small cottages I mentioned at the beginning of this article were demolished to make way for them. One of them, in which Billy Broughton lived with his grandmother, had the distinction of being the last thatched building in Lenton. In the years since I left Lenton, the canal has gone, Spring Close and Commercial Street have disappeared to be replaced by the University Hospital, and finally my Hillside terrace of houses was demolished in the mid-seventies. It looks as though the only things which aren't going to suffer changes are my memories.

Fred Hilton

The Residents of Hillside in 1936

6 Norris James (*)
10 Hammersley Joseph Frank (*)
12 Smith Robert Owen
14 Norris William Archibald (*)
18 Lings Mrs Fanny
20 Brown Percy William
22 Jarvis Albert, driller
24 Gregory Isaiah, miner
26 Knight Arthur, fitter
28 Watson Sidney, cycle hand (*)
30 Hardy Mrs Annie
32 Mayo Harry
34 Hilton James, compositor (*)
36 Kirchin Albert, fitter (*)
38 Wynn Leslie, bus conductor
40 Topley Ernest, carter (*)
42 Miller Mrs Laura, shopkeeper
44 Kenyon William W., builder (*)
46 Hill Henry, haulage contractor (*)
48 Pratten Horace, porter
50 Henshaw Ernest, millwright
52 Lyon Frank, labourer
54 Stevenson Arthur, railway checker
56 Denny James, bricklayer
58 Keeting Albert
60 Smith Christopher, fish salesman
62 Brown Hugh W., labourer
64 Hart Harry, bus driver
66 Luglan Herbert, miner
68 Hart Miss Louisa
70 Buckingham William, gardener
72 Priest Mrs Clara
Suffolk Thomas F., moulding sand merchant (*)

1936 is the first year that the City Directories deign to include more than the odd inhabitant of hillside, so we cannot provide a list of residents there at the time of Fred's reminiscences. Those, however, with an asterisk after them are the names of neighbours Fred recalls living there when he did.

Frederick William Hilton born on 14 February 1905 died in Nottingham in February 1992.

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