The Magazine of Lenton Local History Society

Sheila Carpenter

From 'The Lenton Listener' Issue 22

January to February 1983

A 1920s Childhood in Lenton

In 1924 the Carpenter family from the Sherwood area set up home at No. 5 Lenton Boulevard, New Lenton, where they remained for the next sixteen years. The father, Charles Albert worked as a civil servant in the Telephone Manager's office at Stoney Street, and brought home a wage many in Lenton must have envied. Life for the Carpenters was a comfortable one, though not without its share of sadness. These times have been recalled by Sheila Yvonne Carpenter, eighth of twelve children born to Charles and his wife Alice Mabel. Now married to a retired schoolmaster Peter Bourner and living in Somerset, she produced a series of reminiscences for the interest of members of her family. These we have adapted for the Lenton Listener and hope they are of interest to more than just her immediate relations.

Sheila Carpenter with her sisters Aline and Audrey either side of her,
posing on Lenton Recreation Ground in the mid 1920s.

We moved to No. 5 Lenton Boulevard when I was just over 3½ years old. Soon after we arrived, I remember being taken for a walk along Willoughby Street and it seemed just like fairyland to me, with all the huge gas-lit flares lighting the shops. Compared with our house in Sherwood, our new home seemed very large. There were two extra rooms up in the attic and a separate bathroom and lavatory - real luxury indeed! I was always warned not to open the door to the cellars, so these remained a mystery for many years. Within a year we had electricity installed, but the gas brackets remained over the mantelpiece for some time. The fine cotton gauze mantles were purchased from the hardware shop opposite, and next door to the Liberal club.

At the age of 4½ years, it was time for school. My mother took me along to the infants school on Lenton Boulevard, I wore a handkerchief pinned to my dress and carried my lunch (a piece of toast, wrapped in brown paper) - no grease proof paper, plastic bags or Tupperware boxes in those days. I clearly remember that first day - even down to the position of the chairs, benches and the teacher's desk and the large cards fixed to the walls, each carrying one letter of the alphabet with a suitable picture underneath. When I was seven, I moved up to the Elementary School with its entrance on Albert Road. Memories of this institution were on the whole quite pleasant, though I was occasionally given the 'strap' for not learning how to spell the words which were put up on the board at the beginning of each week. Dad eventually visited the headmistress and put a stop to this form of punishment. Chatterboxes were invited to stand on their seats with their hands on their heads and individuals not paying attention to their lessons often felt a sharp rap on their knuckles with a ruler. I could never cope with knitting lessons and in the early days, used to sit with a pair of thick wooden pins and hairy wool, just passing the stitches from one needle to the other - no progress at all. In my last year at the school I became a monitor, helping to mix the powdered ink, but that job was short-lived as I dropped a whole tray of heavy glass inkwells.

Looking Southwards along Lenton Boulevard around about the beginning
of the 1920s. Throughout the 1920s the Post Office at No.17 and the
butchers at No.15 were run by John Shaw and Walter Vernon respectively.
Just like present day there was a stationery sideline within the Post Office,
though also on offer for part of the 1920s was a range of jewellery.

I still remember spouting 'poetry' with great vigour. At Easter we were taught 'Think on this sacred festival; think why Cross Buns were given; then think of Him who died for all, to give you right to Heaven'. Of course we preferred to chant 'Hot Cross Buns, Hot Cross Buns, one a penny, two a penny, Hot Cross Buns.'

In those days our pleasures were simple; playground games included skipping, either with a very long rope held by two girls, with several others jumping in and out until the rope became tangled, or individual skipping backwards and forwards, accompanied by such chanting rhymes as 'Salt, pepper, vinegar' etc. When Easter arrived and the weather improved, we all acquired whips and tops, battledores and shuttlecocks, and hoops, which we bowled along pavements, or round the paths of Lenton recreation ground. We would throw balls against walls and then practise intricate movements of arms and legs, clapping our hands and trying to keep the balls in motion for as long as possible. I was particularly fond of singing games such as 'The Good Ship sails', 'In and out the dusky Bluebells', 'Here we go round the Mulberry Bush', and 'Father's in his Den'. It was some time before I discovered that I should have been singing 'Farmer's in his Den'.

I attended Sunday School regularly and became most attached to the quiet beauty of Holy Trinity Church. Later I was to be christened, confirmed and married there. My sister Barbara, who died in 1928, at the age of fifteen, is buried in the churchyard. The cortege was carried in a horse-drawn vehicle by Norris's, the funeral directors, who lived next door at No. 3 Lenton Boulevard. The vicar, Rev. Skipper, was rather a formidable figure with a very loud voice. His wife was equally frightening to me and one year (I was about eight years old) I stood at her side watching a bob apple race at the church fete; she was encouraging the contestants by calling 'Never say die, never say die'. In my shrill voice I added, 'Say damn'. It seemed pointless after she had chastised me, to tell her that we had a poker work plaque hanging over our mantelpiece at home which read, 'Never say die - say DAMN'. Voting days were enormous fun for the children at Lenton and I was usually to be found at the head of a gang of kids all chanting 'Vote, vote, vote for Mr .... Mr .... is the one; if you all vote for him, we'll be sure to get him in, and we'll hang old ... on the door-or-or'. I had the impression that my parents were Liberals, but I seem to remember Dad hanging a pair of bright red drawers out of the window to aggravate my mother.

Clayton's Bridge, Lenton Lane with the 'Poplars' on the right - scene of many
a happy day's fishing for the Carpenter family.

In spite of being such a skinny child (Dad used to call me 'Shadder') I always enjoyed good meals - supplemented by bread and lard and pickled onions (scrumptious!). Our grocery bills for a family of a dozen, must have been enormous - 9lbs of butter in one huge slab; 12lbs of sugar in blue bags; 3lbs of cheese, cut with a length of wire. My mouth still waters at the memory of luscious legs of ham with enough fat to scrape off and spread on bread; potted meat in large dishes; delicious pork pies and cream cheeses. Faggots in thick brown gravy were sold steaming hot from a shop on or near to Willoughby Street and when I was sent to collect any, I used to carry the faggots home in a large jug, gleefully dipping my finger into the gravy all the way back to No. 5. The Co-op shop on Lenton Boulevard supplied most of our groceries and also a regular supply of kittens. I remember on more than one occasion seeing 'one kitten please' written at the bottom of the grocery list. The Co-op in the very early days brought the milk round on a cart drawn by a horse and the milk was extracted from a large churn with a ladle. Dimon's Dairy was situated just across the road from No. 5 at the corner of Hart Street and Lenton Boulevard. I was often to be found with my nose pressed close to their window looking at their range of cakes - chocolate éclairs and French cream puffs were firm favourites.

The 'Stop me and Buy One' man on his tricycle contraption was a most welcome sight in the streets of Lenton. Our cornets had a flavour which has never been recaptured by modern methods of production, albeit that the standard of hygiene has improved out of all recognition. The hot chestnut man put in an occasional appearance during the winter months - what did he do for a living during the summer?

I also liked the visits of the organ grinder with his cute little monkey, although we didn't see them very often. Every Saturday, Dad would bring home a box of Black Magic for Mum, a bag of mintoes of himself and bars of chocolate for all of us. We were allowed to choose and I much preferred Cadburys Flake.... such a crumbly mess they made! Our sweets usually cost either a farthing or a half penny. There were gobstoppers, which we used to take out of our mouths to see if the colour changed and triangular bags of kaylie powder which was transferred to our mouths via a damp finger. What an unhygienic lot we were! Sherbet fountains were also firm favourites, as were liquorice sticks, aniseed balls and slabs of toffee which the shopkeeper, a Mr. Leadbetter, would bang with a hammer.

Sheila Carpenter aged 10 photographed in her
Brownie uniform.

Our legs carried us far afield on most of our adventures. Trams were available at ha'penny a ride, and once when my fare had not been collected, I nipped smartly off, only to be chased by an irate conductor - I felt as if I had deprived the Corporation of a fortune and dared not tell my Mum. I have very happy memories of Trent Bridge, picnicking and paddling on the steep steps or wandering down Trent Lane (now known as Lenton Lane) with a fishing net and jam jar to spend hours 'dipping' into the canal for fish - usually sticklebacks. A lot of energy was expended running up and down the steps in The Park, and visits to the Castle were very special indeed. Wollaton Hall, with the beautiful Lime Tree Avenue approach, the lake, and the deer roaming at will were all part of my childhood memories. The Hall and ground were sold to Nottingham Council when I was quite young and I recall the first houses and bungalows being erected in the beautiful park. Nearer home, of course, was Lenton recreation ground where we used to beat hell out of cricket and tennis balls, or wear ourselves to a frazzle playing rounders.

I received my Learner's Certificate for swimming at the age of eight and could then enjoy a 'dip' in the open-air pool at Highfields throughout each summer. We often had to queue for ages before being admitted and we would change in individual cubicles, placing our clothes in a wire basket which was then stored away (with a number to identify it) and of course, it would be me who lost the identity number and so be unable to claim back my clothes. This was a very up-to-date procedure for the times. At Radford Baths, we were merely herded into one large changing room and left to wriggle about in embarrassment as we dried ourselves without revealing much of that which Nature had endowed us with - not much in my case! I hasten to add that the boys were allocated a separate dressing room.

The record of my childhood days would not be complete without a mention of the day in January 1928, when I joined the 19th Lenton Brownie pack. Meetings took place at Lenton Church School and the first sight I had of the toadstool with a beautiful owl perched on it, and the colourful pictures of pixies, elves, fairies, sprites and gnomes, together with suitable rhymes - 'This is what we do as Elves, think of others, not ourselves' set the seal on an occasion which was to influence the whole of my life. But that is another story. I look back on my life in Lenton with such fond memories. Ah, those were the days!

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