The Magazine of Lenton Local History Society

Willoughby Street - 1936
E. Neal Cycle & Wireless Dealer

Courtesy of Ebay we recently [2013] acquired a customer's payment card belonging to George Allison of 58 Willoughby St, Lenton. As the payment card reveals Mr Allison had acquired a new Ferranti Parva AC/DC radio from E. Neal (Cycle & Wireless Dealer) of 30 Willoughby Street, New Lenton. The radio cost £11 10s. and an initial payment of 10 shillings had been made on 5 December 1936. According to the payment card Mr Allison then continued to make regular payments until early 1938 when the radio was finally his.

We now know a fair bit about Mr Allison. He married his wife, Mabel Hartop, at Lenton Parish Church in February 1927. Mabel was Lenton born and bred but we are not entirely sure where George hailed from. The couple began their married life living with Mabel's father, George Hartop, at 11 Kyte Street. About 1936 they moved to the address shown on the payment card but were only there for a short while before going to live at 12 Lombard Street. By 1938 they had settled on a more permanent residence and 5 Church Street Lenton became their home for the next twenty years. Their final place of residence was still in New Lenton - 14 Hart Street. It was while they were living here that George Allison died in 1961 and Mabel Allison in 1974. They had just one child, Alexander John, who was born in early 1932. He continued to live at 14 Hart Street by himself until the late 1970s when he moved elsewhere. If Alexander ever married it was after he left Hart Street. Alexander John Allison died in Nottingham in 2004. It would seem likely that Alexander held on to his father's payment card but quite why this piece of ephemera should have come to light in 2013 is not obvious.

Although not actually the Ferranti Parva AC/DC
model, in outward apperance this Ferranti 637B
would have looked identical. Image taken from
the Radio Museum website (part of the Martin
Zavelberg collection)

As for the radio - the Ferranti Parva was produced in table, console and radiogram versions. The AC/DC version was a table model running off mains electricity which picked up both long and short wave radio broadcasts. The radio was encased in moulded Bakelite shell and Ferranti would appear to have launched the Parva range in 1936 so the Allisons were acquiring the very latest in radio technology.

We can also tell you quite a lot about the shopkeeper. When the radio was sold to Mr Allison, Eleanor Neal was running the business. Her husband, John Neal, had set up as a cycle dealer at 30 Willoughby Street in the late 1920s and presumably added the sale of radios soon afterwards. He had died in 1930 at the age of 54. There is a distinct possibility that he had already been in business on Willoughby Street prior to opening his cycle shop. The earlier directories mention John Neal & Sons, tinsmiths, operating at No.22 Willoughby Street in the first half of the 1920s and this business ceases to be listed once J. Neal cycle dealer takes the stage. The electoral registers can't really help at this stage as no one is ever listed as living at No.22 Willoughby Street - suggesting that it was just a lock-up shop. An earlier mention of John and Eleanor Neal, along with five children can be found in the 1911 Census when they were all living at 9 Kennington Road, in Radford. John Neal had yet to set himself up in business and described himself as a cycle polisher, no doubt working at the Raleigh. At the time of his death John Neal's estate was valued for probate at £530 suggesting the business was doing quite well.

Eleanor Neal is listed in the 1941 Nottingham Directory as a cycle dealer [no further mention of radios] operating at No.30 Willoughby Street and, up to the war, she can be found living at 30 Willoughby Street with her son, Ernest. In May 1940 Ernest married Sarah Ann Elliott at Lenton Parish Church when he gave his occupation as 'automatic operative'. Come 1945, when the electoral registers started up again, the occupants of No.30 Willoughby Street are listed as Ernest and Sarah A. Neal. Eleanor, it would appear, has handed over the reins to Ernest and gone to live at 26 Clifford Road, Radford where she subsequently died in 1951 at the age of 74. Sarah may have helped out in the shop but once their daughter, Glenis, was born in 1944 she could well have had other things to ocupy her time. The 1950 directory lists Ernest Neal as a cycle dealer but by the time the 1953 directory appeared there had been a change of focus and Ernest was described as a toy dealer. This was also how he was listed in the 1956 directory. Ernest and Sarah continued to appear on the electoral registers for 30 Willoughby Street until 1959/60. Thereafter no one is listed for that particular property. With the Willoughby Street clearance programme in the offing the Neals evidently decided to move. Whether the toy shop was re-established elsewhere is something we have yet to establish. Anyone who can tell us more is invited to get in touch.

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