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                    Recollections of Early 20th Century Blidworth

                              A Conducted Tour of the Village  

Will Richards, our society’s Honorary President, lent me a copy of a pamphlet written by a teacher of Martin Roe School in Ravenshead, Mr R C Roddis. He and Class One of Blidworth Church Primary School had accompanied Mr Richards on a tour of Blidworth in July 1971 and then written it up, presumably after the Blidworth School had closed and transferred its pupils and teachers to a new school in Ravenshead. It was typewritten and copied using a machine known as a ‘Banda’. As in this case, the ink often soaked into the paper to the other side, merging the words and making it difficult to read in parts.  

I thought it was an important document that should be preserved and decided to word process it for inclusion on our website. I have copied it verbatim, including the front cover and therefore as it is forty years old, some of the terms used may begin to sound a little dated. The reader should also be aware that over this time span the village has changed significantly and descriptions of places and buildings may have changed or disappeared altogether.  

It appears that the village tour was part of a larger school project and children who took part in it may well read this with affection. If any are interested in recalling this event or are interested in any aspect of historical Blidworth, you would be most welcome at one of our monthly meetings.                                                                                                
John Smallwood June 2011.


A Conducted Tour of the Village
Arranged and Led by Mr. Bill Richards, July 1971    
Recorded by children of class one  
Compiled and edited by Mr. R. C. Roddis, March 1972

These notes have been produced as a tribute to Mr. Bill Richards whose enthusiasm and industry for everything concerning the old village is unending.  

We would like to thank too, all those people who supplied additional material, photographs, books and personal knowledge which made this project so interesting and educationally rewarding.  

We hope very much that someone, soon, will compile a definitive history of the village. It would be well worth the effort.

Mr Richards had planned the tour so that we encompassed the whole of the old village. Accordingly we walked from the church along Main Street as far as Marriotts Lane. We walked through the lane, then through the meadows to where the new estate has been developed. To the hollow at the junction of Mansfield Road and Dale Lane. From here we walked along Mansfield Road to the Colliery Welfare Institute then back to Main Street returning up to the Church School after diverting into Beck Lane.

Beginning his tour at the top of Church Hill, Mr Richards pointed out that fifty years ago, Main Street was nothing more than a country lane, deeply rutted, cobbled and full of pot holes, but traffic at this time was practically non-existent. The problems presented to horse drawn carts, particularly in wet weather, were such that whenever possible the carters avoided the hill by using Ricket Lane and Sandy Lane to bypass this hazard. Referring to an article written by a Mr. Tansley he described how stones from the adjacent fields were collected together in piles at the roadside where the road surveyor’s ‘roadman’ would use his stone breaking machine to reduce them to a size suitable for repairing the road. Presumably the labourers were paid for the stones they collected. The stones had been exposed by the sheep feeding on the remains of the crops in the fields.  

Mr Bill Hallam, who lived in the far end cottage of Fliar’s Yard, which was situated just above the present rose nursery, was the stone breaker for the roads. In the years about 1920 he used to travel in his donkey cart to the junction of Dale Lane and the present A614 road. Farmers would gather stones from the fields and take them to him there. He held the stones on a block as they were smashed using a tool shaped like an almost completely closed hook held horizontally. Many hundreds of tons of these stones are part of the foundations of the present A.614 road.  

A story which impressed the youth of the village concerned Frank Whitworth, the son of a much respected former vicar, Rev. Whitworth. Frank earned much admiration for his ability to throw a cricket ball from the Church gate so that it struck the sails of the windmill. Apparently people came from considerable distances to watch this feat. Later he became a county cricketer for Nottinghamshire.

Although the smock mill ceased to work about 1900 the sails were still in position until the 1930’s. At this time the millhouse stood close by.  

Most of the villages lived a life close to poverty and to illustrate this point, Mr Richards recalled the story of a villager who was so poor that when his wife died he transported the coffin to the Churchyard on his own donkey barrow, a simple four wheeled platform. At the churchyard he called the miller to help him carry the coffin to the graveside where after the committal service they interred the body.  

The foundations of the New Inn, now demolished, showed two interesting features. One was the mounting block and the other the site of the hitching rings used by visitors to the Inn, and perhaps the Church. A further interesting fact concerning the Inn was that one of the first mutual aid societies (a sick club) was started here. Members paid a 1d. per week so that when they were ill, they qualified for a small sickness payment. The loft was reputedly used as a sickroom. The village football team also used the Inn as a changing room and when an important fixture was played or a village celebration occurred the Kirkby Prize band could be seen marching through Fishpool to their engagement providing music en route.

The church too has a long and interesting history but that deserves separate documentation. However, it is interesting to know that the clock pendulum is formed from a sword used by Captain Need at the battle of Waterloo. The Captain lived at Fountaindales.
Old Blidworth is interesting, perhaps unique, in the number of farms which have frontage on to Main Street, due in all probability to the distribution of land which started with the Enclosure Acts which began to take effect some two centuries earlier.
As we left the crest of the hill, Mr. Richards pointed out Ashwell Terrace which had been a farm with outbuildings which lay between the mill and the New Inn. At the Vicarage he pointed out the garage, the site of the original stables in the loft of which the first school had begun.
Adjacent to the Vicarage boundary was the site of the Vicarage Row, cottages extending the length of the Bird in Hand car park. These cottages housed the families of stockingers who worked in an upper room at their primitive machines from dawn till dusk capturing all the available natural light through the high windows which were a feature of buildings used for this purpose. When the last was demolished in 1969, the reeds forming the original thatched roof was exposed.

The Bird in Hand had stables at each side so that customers horses could be sheltered and fed. At the side of the yard was Mr. Herod’s bicycle shop. As a boy Mr. Richards remembered that carbide had been a major sale. This compound was needed for the bicycle lamps of the period. When added to water the chemical produced acetylene gas which when ignited gave a reasonably bright light. Unfortunately it also smelt dreadfully. This property was demonstrated very effectively when some fearless pupil dropped carbide into the inkwell at school! 

The village street was illuminated by gas lamps hanging from wall brackets. The lamplighters were a familiar figure in the village. House lighting was also by gas although those who could not afford it still used oil lamps.

The school bell had great importance in the village, not only calling pupils to school at 8.55a.m. and 1.25 p.m., but acted as a time check for the villagers, if they possessed a clock. The school has a very interesting history too but requires a separate study.  

Mr. Richards was at great pains to point out that before 1930 the village was totally self sufficient apart from a residential doctor. This became evident as we progressed. He showed the site of a stone trough fed from a natural spring which was used as a water supply when the reservoir, situated in Ricket Lane and filled with water pumped up from Fishpool, dried up which it frequently did in summer. The stone trough, carved from one stone to prevent leakage, lay along a little lane leading to Godfrey’s Cottages known colloquially as Back o’ Trough cottages. The spring line providing the water supply and even today occasionally leaking over the road was the source of an open brook which ran down the right hand side of Main Street and Dale Lane. During the depression, new drains were dug by pick and shovel gangs. Just below the Church School however, the ground ‘domes’ and here men tunnelled the drain through. The debris was hauled out on a sledge which was pulled back and forth with ropes. It is easy to imagine crowds of curious children being hoodwinked into believing the men were excavating secret tunnels. Even today the rumours of tunnels and caves are current among the young people.

Opposite the stone trough was a general grocery shop where black treacle was often bought instead of sugar which was considered too dear. The Mock Tudor fronted Co-op had a considerable sale of animal foods since most of the villagers kept pigs and poultry. However the centres of village commerce was situated at the junction of Field Lane and Main Street. At the side of the old Black Bull was the fish and chip shop where fish cost 2d. and chips 1d. The Bull trough stood in the open space. Its name stems from the time when the Parish owned a bull under the charge of the charge of the Church Wardens.  This animal was used to serve all the cows belonging to the villagers. Originally it was kept in a small field known as the ‘Bull Piece’ which adjoined the now discontinued tip on New Lane. Later it was kept in the ‘Bull Close’, now the school football pitch behind the Methodist premises. It was now owned by Farmer Bogue but still performed the same function for the village.  

At the side of the old Methodist chapel was the blacksmith’s shop where horses were shod and wheels rimmed. There was great rivalry among the boys to pump the bellows for the blacksmith, particularly when he was rimming a new cart wheel. Mr. Tom Clarke, the wheelwright had his workshop just above Engine Yard. Here he created his wheels, hubs, spokes and rims. When the iron tyre had to be shrunk on all the boys stood around with water ready to douse the red hot iron as it was placed in position on the wheel. The blacksmith had a great reputation because he could stroke red hot metal without flinching.  

Behind the Chapel was the Methodist School. The latent rivalry between the ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ school broke out in winter when snowball fights continued as long as the snow lasted.

The Engine Yard, now part of the photographic premises, was so named because a threshing machine was housed there, a hive of dusty activity and curious children in the autumn. Here too was the first petrol pump in Blidworth selling petrol at 1/3d a gallon. But only the vicar and the Schoolmaster possessed cars. In 1911 a charabang service ran irregularly to Mansfield. It was much like a railway coach with several doors into several compartments. The engine required several men to turn the cranking handle and was so unreliable that no timetable was possible. If villages wished to travel to Mansfield, they could either travel with the carrier who meandered through the hamlets, walk to Rainworth railway station to catch the Mansfield train, but if you were in a hurry, the quickest way was to walk via the footpaths through Lindhurst.  

Behind the Methodist Chapel, rebuilt in 1933 on the site first used in 1787, stood two more windmills. These were post windmills, the whole body of the mill, apart from the base, turning to catch the strength of the wind.  

The tailors shop stood just below the factory. Whenever the weather was suitable he worked outdoors sitting cross legged on a table patiently plying his needle. It was here too in the dusk that the local youngsters gathered beneath the gas lamp outside the Ex-Servicemens Institute. They were careful however to avoid a cuff from the village policeman’s gloves or a swipe with his cape!  In this building, now the photographic factory, the men of the village gathered for recreation, billiards, snooker and cards. Membership was limited to those over 14 years, the school leaving age. This institute closed about 1925 but the other in Marriotts Lane survived until about 1934 when it was replaced by a purpose built building behind the present B. P. garage. Now that Institute has been converted to a bungalow.  

Below the Institute clustered on each side of the road as far as Beck Lane were other tradesmen’s premises. Apart from the butcher and the draper, the cobbler also doubled as the village barber whilst the joiner made coffins to order as the occasion arose. The saddler too was a most important member of the community since the horse was vital to the farmer and traveller. The village post office was on Beck Lane but later moved to Mr. Richards present house. The White Lion was originally the Red Lion but lost its licence, later re-opening under its present name. Paradoxically the cottages on the opposite side of Main Street had always been known as White Lion Yard.  

For those villagers living below the Bull, the higher spring was too far away so in time of drought or when the Fishpool pump failed, they obtained their water supply from the house of Mrs. Foster just below the White Lion. Apparently a stream of spring water ran through the cellar. The stream of callers often provoked her temper! Cut into the sand bank just above this house are a series of hollows which were once at the back of cottages. These hollows were donkey stables. Mr. Richards pointed out that the people would be too poor to own horses and recalled a story current in his youth when one of the cottagers was heard to say that he had just got his donkey living on nothing when it died.

  The house which is now Mr. Holloway’s (Junior) Farm had been the home of the village registrar responsible for recording all births, marriages and deaths. Since he was an old man of 80 years and deaf too, the accuracy of his records is perhaps questionable.  

Diverting down Marriott Lane Mr. Richards remembered that many times he had watched a Mr. Colin Coates shearing sheep using hand clippers in the yard behind Holloways before loading them into a cart to be transported to Mansfield cattle market where they would be sold.  

The gathering and shearing pens were often surrounded by watching children especially when the shears became mechanised! By turning a handle which drove gears and a flexible drive the new shears could be operated mechanically. Naturally children vied for the privilege of turning the handle.  

In the loft above the yard was a club for the youth of the village where they could play billiards and table tennis. Passing in front of Marriott Cottages he recalled that the schoolmistress had lived with a family there.  

Referring again to Mr. Tansley’s article which mentioned Mr. Pogson the carrier, he pointed out a dwelling situated on Sandy Lane. This was North Wood Hill Farm, which Mr. Pogson, who was Mr. Richards grandfather, had rented from Mr. Blatherwick a well known local family. As village carrier Mr. Pogson had journeyed to Mansfield each Thursday and Nottingham each Saturday. When his grandfather was a boy a fee of either 1d. or 2d. per week had to be paid for attendance at school. Strict examinations by inspectors were carried out each year. At the age of 12 a pupil could become a ‘half timer’ if he were successful in the examination which meant he could go to work for half the time. The situation continued well into the 20th century. As an annual treat the pupils were taken by farm carts to Blidworth Dale, the journey there and back occupying most of the day. Miss Smith who resided at Blidworth Dale, was a school manager and financed the outing. On the appointed day farm wagons would arrive at school via. Field Lane to be loaded with eager children. As a four year old Mr. Richards remembered being picked up and placed on the wagon only to fall off again. Fortunately no harm was done. At Blidworth Dale the usual picnic activities and novelty races occupied the day.

Years later Mr. Herod who owned the bicycle shop acquired a charabanc. However, because the Church Hill and Field Lane had to be avoided – the engine could not be trusted going up, the brakes going down – the vehicle took a roundabout journey via. Rickets Lane and Larch Farm. It was quite likely that the children would see women gleaning in the fields. They collected and kept any corn that had escaped the harvesters when the sheaves were taken in. If the gleaned corn was taken to the windmills the millers would grind it free of charge.  

They would probably also meet coal carters who collected their loads from the Rainworth railway station or the Mansfield coal wharf. The coal was sold in the village at 15/10d per ton.  

At this time changes took place in the local landscape. Large areas such as the 80 acre field at Blidworth Bottoms had the trees felled, the roots torn up and the area divided into smaller fields. New allotments, a vital part of the family economy, were set out on Ricketts Lane as well as other parts of the village. In the autumn at Martin Mass men seeking new jobs would travel to Mansfield to meet the farmers to strike their annual bargain with them.  

Stretching below Marriott Cottages was the Meadows through which the footpath passes. Near the stile Mr. Richards remembered that sand had been dug out for building purposes. The hole remaining after this work had subsequently been filled with water and as pond life gradually inhabited it the children found it a constant source of interest. Later it had been partially filled in but a marshy area still remains.  

The meadow, normally pastureland was used as a cricket ground in summer. Before a match a local worthy had the task of marking out in whitewash, non too accurately, the wicket area and the boundaries. The wicket square demanded special attention. A horse drawn roller, the animal shod in sacking to prevent hoof marks, was ceremoniously drawn along the wicket with boulders and children as additional weight on the roller frame. This process was repeated between innings. The ‘pavilion’ housed the cricket equipment and was carefully padlocked between matches. The thwarted children, however, were equal to the occasion. By joining the Church choir they were privileged to use the choir’s own cricket equipment and since this was kept at Mr. Richards house, they were able to play at almost any time.  

As we walked beyond the meadows into the new estate following the footpath we eventually reached the junction of Sandy Lane and Mansfield Road. It was here that the village market had been held. The canvas covered stalls lit in the dusk by bright flare kerosene lamps traded in fresh food, meat and general clothing. At this point the crossing of the footpath and the unmetalled road was controlled by chipping stiles. Continuing through the unspoiled fields the footpath finally reached Rainworth station. But when the colliery and accompanying houses were developed the footpath had to be diverted to the west side of the present colliery Welfare Institute. When we reached this point Mr. Richards showed the depression in the field through which the footpath passed. This clayey area was the site of the village brick kilns. Remains of these had been excavated when new sewerage pipes were laid recently. The kiln had been owned and operated by two brothers who lived in a house at the junction of Three Thorn Hollow Road and Warsop Lane on the southern side. Here too they dug out their clay and this later filled with water to become known as ‘The Brick ins’ pond. This was a favourite hunting ground for tadpoles and the more daring used tray boats to sail across the pond. The brothers also owned a second quarry which was sited at the bottom of Church Hill towards Fishpool just below Mr. Johnsons farm. This too filled with water to become known as ‘Clay Hole’ pond.  

Mr. Richards emphasised that many dwellings in the old village were built of bricks made at the local brickworks, further evidence of its independence and self sufficiency.  

Returning into the village, Mount Pleasant cottages reminded him of another local story. Apparently the wife of one of the Mount Pleasant cottagers fell seriously ill during the night. The husband, because it was winter donned skates and skated to Huchnall via. Linby to fetch the doctor. After enquiring about the state of the road the doctor decided it was too dangerous for his pony and cart and skated back with the husband. In the first quarter of the century skating had been a favourite winter pastime.

At the Dale Lane – Mansfield Road junction, Mr. Richards told us about the Jubilee Oak. This had been planted in 1887 to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria’s reign. It was surrounded by a white wooden fence. This fence had led to a tragedy. As a boy Mr. Richards had been told the story of a postman whose bicycle braked (sic) failed as he cycled down the hill. He struck the fence and was killed instantly. Legend has it that his teeth marks could be seen in the fence timer (sic) for years after! Due to road improvements the tree had been lifted and replanted in the grounds of Rainworth Lodge, formally the home of Joseph Whiitaker, the naturalist. It was at this time probably that the open stream flowing down Main Street and Dale Lane had been culverted.   

At the junction of Mansfield Road and Meadow Road had been another pond famous for frogs, toads and newts. Occasionally after heavy rain this pond overflowed making the road practically impassable. Above the pond was the open field, now the old peoples bungalow estate, where the children spent a good deal of their leisure time generally playing cricket.  

Opposite behind the garage was Rook Wood, another feature which no longer exists. At the side of the garage was Clifton Nooks, some of the oldest and smallest cottages in the village. As we walked back up the hill we passed Hawthorn Villas, so named because of the trees planted at the road side. It was here that we met Mr. Birch whose father had served long and faithfully as Sexton, Verger and Bellringer at the Parish Church. He told us many interesting facts connected with the Church which have also been recorded in other accounts. Holly Tree cottage higher up the hill on the opposite side, perhaps the smallest dwelling in he village was so named because of the tree close by.  

The house adjacent to the plant nursery was the home of the village policeman and was known as the police house and in the same group the headmaster of the Methodist school had lived and so became known as school house.  

Near the junction with Beck Lane we were shown the remains of the village pinfold where stray animals were kept after being rounded up, until the owner had paid the appropriate fine. Further along (----) Lane was the site of the village lock up where human offenders were similarly treated. In this area too we saw the remainder of yet another public water supply; the capping stone of a village well. As we walked along Surgery Lane, so called because visiting doctors held twice weekly surgery in a room of the end cottage, Mr. Richards recalled that in 1924 there had been a smallpox epidemic and all the children of the village had attended for vaccination.   Returning to Beck Lane we saw the site of the original Post Office and the village chimney sweep’s house. Another feature of Beck Lane was a large wooden warehouse which had been built entirely without plans and followed the contours of the hillside yet all the joints had been individually cut to fit together perfectly, a remarkable piece of craftsmanship. Approaching Main Street again Mr. Richards pointed out Meynell Cottages built high above but close to the road on the opposite side.  

Our tour had very nearly reached its end but as a finale we were regaled with stories of events that took place in the White Lion Yard. Foremost was the village fair which was held there at the time of the Rocking Service. Indeed it was the fair with its few amusements but profusion of fun and wonderment which took pride of place in the children’s minds. Freaks, both animal and human were a highlight of the festivities. He did remember a story of his youth however which referred to a good lady of the village. She was known as Mrs. ‘Frock a child’ because she made an annual collection in the village to buy a dress for the infant who was to be the star attraction at the service.  

Another highlight was the occasional pot sale in the White Lion Yard. This travelling trader usually held his sale at 7 o’clock in the evening using the day to advertise crying out the information as he wandered through the village streets. The sale was a dutch auction, the sale goods clustered around in wicker baskets. Starting at a high figure the trader gradually reduced the price until a sale was made. If business was slack he turned to craft. If he could not get the price he wanted he hurled the pot at the wall crying out that he may as well smash them. At this point his son, a pathetic boy would begin wailing, beseeching his father to stop his activities. This dramatic scene was too much for many of the onlookers who, their sympathy aroused; paid more than their commonsense would normally allow for the articles he had to sell.  

So ended the tour, interest as alive at the end as it had been at the start. Our knowledge of the locality vastly enriched, our debt of gratitude difficult to express in adequate words.