BLIDWORTH CHURCH PRIMARY SCHOOL
HEADMASTER: MR. D. R. HORTON
RECOLLECTIONS OF EARLY 20th CENTURY BLIDWORTH
Arranged and Led by Mr. Bill Richards, July 1971
Compiled and edited by Mr. R. C. Roddis, March 1972Recorded by children of class one
Martin Roe C of E Primary School, Ravenshead
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 Marriott 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 Main Street 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 Frank Whitworth became a county cricketer player 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.
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.