from David Elliott
I came to Nottingham University 1966 from London where I grew up. Having spent a year in a Hall of Residence I decided that a 12ft by 9ft "study bedroom" was a recipe for madness. After a couple of failed attempts at independence I found an attic flat at No. 4 Sherwin Road. I would think, from checks I have made on the Internet, that the house has been demolished to make way for the building of Midland Avenue. When I first saw the house it looked a decent distance from the railway. It was only after accepting the tenancy that I realised that the railway curved behind the house. I was made consciously aware of the close proximity of the railway when shortly after moving in, whilst taking a pee in the lavatory at the back of the house, a train passed by and the passengers waved to me. I quickly got used to the hourly coal trains through the night. However, after I left university and Lenton, I used to constantly wake up through the night on the hour.
My first job on moving in was to put some glass in the windows, which I bought second hand from a yard off Castle Boulevard. The house was owned by a Mr Silver who was a very good and understanding landlord. In the prudish 1960's those trying to get accommodation were warned by the potential landlord (which was usually a "landlady") that they could not entertain women there. On my first encounter with Mr Silver's agent, a dour Yorkshireman, who came to collect the rent, he proclaimed "Ee lad, you're going to be a bit lonely up here on your own, best find yourself a lass to share it with". When the agent called the next week I was entertaining a truly voluptuous young lady from the University. The hardened Yorkshireman could scarcely hide his embarrassment saying: "Didn't waste much time did yer lad!"
The first few months at Sherwin Road I go repeated knocks on the door from brylcreamed gentleman asking for "Marion" or whatever her name was. Marion was either a serial philanderer, a brylcream fetishist, both, or even worse. I suspect the latter.
The house had three stories and was let out to 5 people. On the ground floor there was a nice old gentleman. On my first encounter with him he asked where I got my peas from. Peas I asked? He then showed me a bucket of dried peas that had been in soak for a fortnight. I then became acquainted with the Nottingham delicacy of curried peas. Use of the only toilet in the house was insufferable on Friday nights.
A gentleman on the middle floor was a second hand car dealer. He owned a 1920's Duisenberg, the sort of car you see in American gangster films. The cars are so rare today that they are worth a fortune. In the interests of fuel economy he vandalised it, chucking out the priceless Duisenberg engine and replacing it with a diesel. If he is still alive I bet he would rather have half a million in the bank than just the memory of owning a Duisenberg.
On the opposite side of the street going toward the railway bridge was a beautiful cottage with a finely manicured garden, in stark contrast to the houses on the opposite side of the street , which suffered the joint indignity of disrepair and multiple occupancy. One day, whilst the elderly occupant was tending his front garden, a man on a motorcycle drew up to say hello. He was on a Brough Superior, a motorcycle manufactured in Nottingham, of which only some 2,300 were made. Passers by stopped to admire the machine and the proud owner exclaimed that he had been on personal terms with George Brough. Brough Superiors change hands today in excess of £50,000.
The ground floor of the house next door, going towards the railway bridge, was occupied by a West Indian man and his English wife. They were both students at the university. They had atrocious illuminated blue curtains at the front of the property. Sharing an interest in home brew we quickly became friends.
Passing under the bridge towards Lenton Boulevard there was a small corner shop on the left hand side. It was remarkable for the name above the shop front: "W C Horsepool". In 1969, right opposite the shop, a supermarket was built, putting W C Horsepool out of business. It is difficult to think of a worse act of cruelty to an old man by putting an end to his family business and depriving him of his livelihood.
Further along, across the roundabout, was a general store that also served as an off licence. The owner kept a copper funnel for dispensing "jugs of ale" to customers that brought their own container.
The Albion Tavern stood on Sherwin Road until the late 1960s.
On the roundabout there was the Albion Pub. It was a decent working class pub with a nice landlord who kept a really good cellar. On summer days you could sit outside. The pub was obviously built during more genteel times, before the busy thoroughfares pushed it into isolation. During 1969 there were plans to demolish it, and by the time I left Nottingham in 1969 it was boarded up.
My favourite pub was the White Hart, an altogether more comfortable pub than the Albion. My university professor and lecturers would go there. I somehow could not see them discussing the forthcoming syllabus in The Albion. One of the barmaids had a figure that would have given Jordon an inferiority complex. I would like to think that I went there for the beer, but in retrospect, and with the benefit of maturity, the landlord of The Albion probably kept the best cellar.
To get to The White Hart I had to walk down Sherwin Road in the direction of Gregory Street. I vaguely remember a chocolate factory on the right hand side and some quite fine houses. Leen Gate was a very dingy street and as I entered it took on the smell of various engineering works. On the right hand side was the Bell Fruit factory. On most days, a beautifully restored vintage Rolls Royce was parked outside the factory opposite, totally out of context with the dingy surroundings. Sometimes the Rolls Royce was substituted by a six wheeled armoured car. The director of the firm was obviously somewhat eccentric.
Somewhere on the way to The White Hart was a newsagents. It was very innovative for the 1960's, having a chip machine outside. After inserting a coin it fried a portion of chips individually to order. The machine did not last long, suffering from technical difficulties, rather than vandalism as would be the case in modern times. I have not seen such a machine before or since. In the early morning, customers of the shop all seemed to all come in with the same request; "a pint of flat top and 10 Park Drive". Sterilised milk with a crown cork then being the norm, "flat top" was the euphemism for pasteurised milk.
On the South side of Castle Boulevard were "dark satanic mills". In the early hours of the morning flat capped men could be seen on bicycles riding to and from work, their sandwiches secured in ex army webbing bags strung over their backs. The factories were obviously still running at full capacity with three eight hour shifts in those days.
The university folk club was held in an upstairs room of the Travellers Rest in Commercial Street. The pub was in a run down part of town and the performances dire.
Number 4 Sherwin Road suffered from severe dry rot. I remember one of the legs of the bed going through the floor and penetrating the ceiling of the room below. I and the aforementioned voluptuous lady hastily clad ourselves awaiting the inevitable onslaught from the tenant below.
Just coming up to my university finals, a roof leak caused the living room ceiling to collapse.
At the time of my departure the house was up for sale at £2,000, dry rot and leaking roof included.
One of my best memories of Nottingham was getting on a Leyland Tiger bus and asking the conductress for a ticket to Castle Boulevard. Not understanding my London accent, after a pause she said: "Oh you mean Cassel Boolivard – er, we don't go there". She then tapped on the driver's window and asked him to make a detour down Canal Street. – Happy days.