From 'The Lenton Listener' Issue 25
July - August 1983
Bickley's - The Shop that Jack Built
The shop as it looked in 1967
Jack and Irene Bickley have been part of the Lenton Boulevard scene for twenty years. In that time their shop has undergone considerable changes as they worked to create better facilities in which to display their wares. The end result is an Aladdin's cave of which they can justly feel proud.
As a youth Jack got quite a reputation among his friends and relations for repairing their clocks and watches, but little thought that one-day it would provide his livelihood. On leaving school at fourteen, he had started work at the County Hotel, which stood beside the Theatre Royal until 1975 when it was pulled down to make way for the theatre refurbishments. After seventeen years there, broken only by war work at the Raleigh factory, he became very ill and was forced to give up his hotel job. For the next three years he was in and out of the General Hospital - more in than out - with kidney trouble, a carryover from a bout of rheumatic fever contracted when a child. In 1954, back on the road to recovery, he was sent for rehabilitation and subsequent retraining at Long Eaton. Among the courses on offer was one that aimed to reveal the secrets of horology - watch and clock making. Jack signed up and the dye was cast for the rest of his working life. Under the watchful eye of a certain Warrington Scott, a highly respected horologist, Jack completed the course and began working for Turner's, an Ilkeston firm of clock and watch repairers.
Photograph by Chris Dent in 1983
In 1957 he changed jobs and spent the next six years at Copes on Prospect Place in the fine instrument department. Then in 1963 came the big decision to go into business for himself. No.62 Lenton Boulevard, for many years Miss Charlotte Creswell's drapery shop, had become vacant and Jack decided to take it.
The business prospered and after a year Irene joined him in the shop. This freed Jack to deal with the repair work during the daytime and meant that Irene and their son, Terence, might see a little more of him during the evenings. No.62 was just a lock-up shop, not ideal from the point of view of security, so the Bickleys kept on the lookout for more suitable premises.
These appeared five doors further along the Boulevard at No. 72. For several decades this had been the home of Leonard Mottram, a gents' outfitters, but latterly became an electrical shop belonging to a Mr. Sprigg. In 1967 it fell vacant and the Bickleys bought it and have made their home there ever since.
The present shop bears little resemblance to the shop in 1967. The internal walls have been taken out, the staircase rerouted, the lean-to at the rear demolished and a modern extension built in its place. Four years ago the final link with the past was broken when the present modern frontage replaced the old shop front. All these changes have allowed the Bickleys to develop and extend the range of goods - not only clocks and watches, but also silverware, jewellery, glassware, and porcelain figures. Jack offers to tackle all watch and jewellery repairs, but is no longer willing to carry out clock repairs. The spare parts for clocks are now very costly and after labour costs have been added on, the repair charges may be as much as the price of a new clock.
Jack and Irene Bickley - 1983
Unless the clock is very expen- sive or of great sentimental value, Jack usually suggests you forget the repairs and invest in a new one. Except for the cheap models, where you get what you pay for, watches are usually well worth repairing. Jack has even repaired one that fell under a steamroller - though it has to be admitted that the tarmac was still soft and so the watch was not completely crushed. Repairs are accepted with the request that they be collected within three months -but a surprising number are never claimed. Jack usually hangs on to them for a year or eighteen months, but then begins to break them up to salvage the new parts. Occasionally, as has been the case, a customer can still find his watch whole and waiting for him after two years - but you're strongly advised not to risk it.
Throughout their years in Lenton, the Bickleys have certainly done their bit for the community. Irene, in particular, has devoted much time and effort to the wellbeing of the 47th Nottingham (Lenton) Scout troop and Holy Trinity Church. She currently serves on the Parochial Church Council. Happy though those years in Lenton have been, the Bickley's are looking forward to their retirement in a couple of years, when they hope to sell up and move to the East Coast. So make the most of them while they're still here!