How similar is the lockdown to life during the Second World War?

How similar is the lockdown to life during the Second World War?

To some, the Coronavirus pandemic feels like the end of the world, with the majority of shops, restaurants and pubs closed and having limited travel. But to those of a certain age, it’s a reminder of the Second World War.

Only this time the enemy is practically invisible, but the results are easily seen, with hospitals filling up with contagious patients. Food of course had to be rationed from 1939, as German U-boats were sinking UK supply ships. This led to food shortages and stockpiling. Something that we’ve all experienced, with supermarket shelves stripped bare.

This behaviour has caused food to be binned, as it’s past its sell by date. Whereas, in 1939 and indeed until 1954, every scrap of food was eaten. Yes, rationing went on for nine years after the war had ended. Not all foods were rationed at the same time. Meat was one of the first commodities to be limited, with other staples following a year or two later. But it wasn’t just food that was controlled. Movement was too, especially at night, as all lights were switched off. The Air Raid Warden would knock at your door, with that famous Dad’s Army line, “Put that light out”…

To compare life now, with that of 75 years ago, Jean Mary Barton, the granddaughter of Thomas H Barton OBE, founder of Bartons buses remotely spoke to her sister in law Barbara Barton, about her wartime experience.

“I was born in 1926 and lived firstly on Denison Street, and then to a new house on Hallams Lane in 1938. My father Carl worked very long hours on buses and lorries for his father. When he had time off, he took flying lessons at Tollerton Airport. When the war started, he was hoping to join the RAF, but at 38 he was considered too old. He was not ‘called up’ as he worked in a ‘Reserved’ occupation; transporting supplies and men. He also did Fire Duty during the evening. I had two younger brothers, and so mum had her work cut out looking after us and the house. I was tasked with keeping an eye on the boys, and it was difficult. Whilst riding our bikes, my brother Elson, rode under the back of a lorry going down School Lane. He hurt himself quite badly. mother was very cross with me”.

“I was 13 when it became obvious that war would be declared. I was going to attend boarding school at Hatfield, North London. Queenswood was recommended by a family friend. Although war started before I went, Mum said I would have to go, as she had already paid and it was expensive. I was absolutely terrified when Dad took me down with my trunk. I asked him years later how he could have taken me. He said that his children weren’t his concern, and it was up to our mother. So, when children from London were being evacuated to the country, I was going from the country to London”.

“There was a gun turret in the school grounds and it tried to pick off the planes before they dropped their bombs…”

“When we arrived, there were other girls there too, mainly daughters of officers in the Armed Forces, or politicians and other professions. Not too many were from ‘Industry’ like me, so I found it rather difficult fitting in. But as the war progressed, quite a few girls left for the country. So by 1945, only about 10 remained. We were only allowed to walk in the grounds for exercise. When the German bombers came over for the Blitz, they flew to the north of Hatfield and then turned and made a southerly run over our school to London. There was a gun turret in the school grounds and it tried to pick off the planes before they dropped their bombs. This made our school a very dangerous place to be”.

“We were not allowed to sleep in the dormitories, we had to sleep in the corridors downstairs on camp beds and I remember mice and rats running around. It was very cold too, as the windows were open and we had little heat. It was considered healthier to sleep in the cold and we were not allowed to be ill. During the school holidays, I would mostly help mother with the boys again. I felt the effects of ‘rationing’ more at home, as dad would get the most, and mum would give the boys more than me, as they were growing. We kept chickens in the garden for eggs. A local farmer ensured that Queenswood was well supplied with food”.

“My father built a very unusual air raid shelter, which I understand is still there today. He used a liquid tanker and sunk it into the ground. We had bare essentials in there, but felt safe when there was a raid over Chilwell Depot. I remember one night, incendiary bombs were dropped in the fields at the back of our house and we all came out to look after the plane had gone. It was really beautiful to see the fields all lit up. Once when the Trent was flooded, the bombers used an incorrect trajectory to Chilwell Depot and bombed Hurts Croft instead. One house was demolished, but no one was killed, as apparently the lady was warned by the ghost of her dead mother, and they hid under the kitchen table. A reconnaissance plane flew so low once, that I swear I could see the pilot. It flew towards me as I was walking up Chilwell Lane and I thought he was going to shoot me. They were charting the course from Chilwell Depot to Stanton Ironworks, so that they could bomb two targets in one run”.

“As today, all the theatres and other entertainments were closed. Shops were almost empty, and it was not until the American soldiers arrived, that fun for teenagers like me returned. They brought nylons and chocolate and they liked dancing. So they brought much needed merriment, as they were based at Wollaton Park. This went on for almost a year before they left. When I left school, I joined the Health Service. My payslips came from Nottingham Council. But that changed in 1948, when the NHS started. I worked as a Radiographer and specialised in chest conditions such as TB, which was the number 1 killer at that time. I worked for the Chest Clinic on Forest Road and the City Hospital until I retired”.

Thanks to Barbara Barton for organising and conducting the interview with Auntie Jean.


I Am Beeston: Julian Baston – Garage Owner

“I was born in Beeston and went to both Round Hill and Alderman White schools. After leaving school, I did a YTS course at Chilwell Van Hire, and have been involved in repairing motors ever since”.

“In 2009 my former wife and I left for Florida in the US. I went to work for a garage that repaired police cars and fire engines. We lived in Brandon Tampa, which was a ninety-minute drive to the repair shop. I didn’t mind the distance, as it was just basically three roads. I’d just put the car in cruise control and pop on an 80s music station. But my wife was homesick, so we came home after a couple of years. I then took on a garage at Ruddington, ‘Village Motors’, and now I have ‘Smiths’, here in Chilwell, which I’ve had for four years now”.

“I’ve always liked Beeston. If I have any problems, then I just have to pick up the phone and I’ll know someone who can help me out. The tram had no real detrimental effect on my business. It’s only really the virus that’s stopped me working. I prefer working on my own anyway, so I don’t have a problem with being alone. I prefer it. Technology has taken over so much in cars now. But I’m planning to wind down and retire sometime soon anyway, so I can spend some time in Spain”.

“I’ve been disappointed at the loss of shops over the last few years, but it’s so easy to walk everywhere. Although I recently had a hip replacement, so that’s stopped me walking around the Attenborough Nature Reserve. I’m a member of the Porsche owners club, and we’ve done a few shows at Wollaton Park. I do like having weekends away with my partner Jo and visiting places like Robin Hoods Bay and Whitby”.



Talking loud and clear

If you have ever passed by, or used the Texaco garage on Queens Road and wondered where that short pathway goes that runs between the petrol station and Papa John’s, well ponder no longer, for I have the answer. It leads to a small car park and building that belong to a company called Talk Back Studios. They have been there for 12 years now, although they have been in Beeston for over 20, having previously been based behind the Barrel pub on the High Road.

Talk Back are a small, family-run viewing studios, where market researchers come and interview groups of people about products and services and what they think of them. I have actually been there a few times myself and given my opinion on such diverse subjects as rail travel, energy company adverts and biscuits. People are recruited through external agencies and are selected by their profile, age, sex, social class etc, plus any other criteria that these companies require. It’s no use being invited to talk about nappies if you’ve never had kids.

The building itself was part of Thomas Humber’s cycle and car works, before becoming a textiles factory, then an engine workshop for a charity. There was another building in front, which was the car showroom, it’s where the petrol station stands. But it was destroyed in a fire.

The company was founded by Sue and Alan Harvey. Alan, a former marketeer with Thorntons, and Sue who ran the Merry Go Round Nursery on City Road decided to create a marketing company that would the best available in the East Midlands. And 20 years later, they have realised that dream. Their son Mike, a former photographer now manages the studio, as his parents have supposed to have ‘retired’. Although they still seem to work long hours there. Sue tends to meet and greet the respondents, while Alan makes the tea and looks after the clients’ needs. They also employ students from the university, through Unitemps to assist on an ‘as and when’ basis. While I was there a student called Chloe who is studying Public Health was assisting with the two groups that had arrived and was making sure that they got into the right room.

I met up with Mike at the studios and chatted to him at quiet times during the evening. Firstly, I asked him about the business. “We had outgrown the other building and were looking for somewhere bigger, and we came across this place. The landlord allowed us to gut the building and redesign it how we wanted it. We sandblasted the internal walls, and we have tried to keep the building’s history alive”. Reminders of the building’s cycling history can be found throughout the building, from photos of old bikes to the names of the meeting rooms. “We are also trying to be as green as we can. We’ve just about phased out single-use plastics, have installed LED lighting and will be getting a charging point for electric cars. We also had a reproduction made of the blue plaque that’s on the wall outside”. There are seven meeting rooms which can be rented during the day, as they are used during the evening for research purposes. These events tend to run from Monday to Thursday and tend to last ninety minutes to two hours.

Once you arrive, you are checked in and you sign for your fee. This could range from £30£70, depending on who the company are and what you’ll be discussing. You are then offered a drink and a snack while you wait. There are two sets of chairs, one red, one green. This designates which room you’ll be going in. The rooms have a one-way mirror so that company representatives can see what’s going on. Essential if it’s a very visual task, like arranging products in order of preference. The research is also recorded. In the past, this used to be on video cassettes. These days it is all done digitally, MP3 & MP4 and the files can be sent to the client via FTP immediately after the session. All mobile phones have to be switched off, as this can interfere with the recording equipment.

I asked Mike if they ever get any unusual requests from companies. “We’ve had a few. Once some sofas were delivered, as they were being tested by the group. We’ve also had seven toasters all working at the same time, as people were testing bread. But probably the most unusual request we get is when we have to dress the place like it is Christmas, but this can be in the middle of summer. Or in the middle of winter, we have to make the place look like you’re on a beach holiday. Sometimes even we don’t know who the client is so that we can stay impartial. But we have come across products that have been tested here.

If you want to earn some extra tax-free money, then go and sign up through some local agencies. The website for this is www.


I Am Beeston: Tina Stowell – The Baroness of Beeston

I was born in the Rylands and my parents still live there. My dad was a painter and decorator while my mum worked at Plessey. I went to Beeston Rylands infant and Junior Schools, then Chilwell Comprehensive.

After leaving school, I did a secretarial course at Broxtowe College. I then joined the Civil Service, and worked in various sections including the British Embassy in Washington and the Press Office in Downing Street. I joined the House of Lords in 2011, and am currently Chair of the Charity Commission.

Although I live in London, I try to return to Beeston every six weeks, as Beeston is still my home. When I became a peer, it was my decision to be titled Baroness Stowell of Beeston, as I am always flying the flag for Beeston. Beeston is the reason for what I have become.

I think you can learn a lot from the people of Beeston. Their warmth, humour, honesty and authenticity. It’s those things that make me proud to come from Beeston. I was privileged to recently officially open Julie Wesson and Richard Haywood’s newest location on Villa Street. They are a local business providing a service to the people of Beeston, who I know they care a lot about.

Clean Life, Clean Earth

As this issue is looking at the environment, I took a stroll along Chilwell Road to art supply shop Artworks, where being green isn’t just a colour in tubes of watercolour paint, but a small step to help save the planet, as the shop has recently turned part of its floor space into an area where you can buy green goods in recyclable packaging…

The ‘Waste Less Shop’ only opened on the 11th of June this year by Jessica Leatherland, daughter of Frank Noonan, the owner of Artworks. Previously the space was being used for displaying local artists’ work, but it wasn’t really paying its way, so Jessica, a keen environmentalist anyway and a veggie who is trying to go vegan suggested that the space be turned into a shop where people can come to help reduce and eliminate single-use plastics from their house.

So what sort of things are available to buy at the moment? They basically fall into five categories: household cleaning products, personal cleaning products, storage for small items, baby clothes and a small section of jewellery. The range of cleaning products includes washing up liquid, laundry detergent and loo cleaner, of which are all dispensed from large containers into reusable bottles. The batch number of the liquid is always written on the bottle, just in case there are any problems with the production.

You can also get your dishes clean by using soap in bar form that doesn’t contain any plastics or palm oil. Long-lasting, it can also be used as a spot cleaner on clothes and carpets. Then there are scrubbing pads that are made from coconut fibre. Get your pots and pans clean without scratching. And when it wears out, you can chuck it into your compost heap.

Going shopping? How about using an organic cotton bag for carrying your bread, fruit and vegetables in, instead of a plastic carrier bag?

For you or that special person in your life, you can buy body butter, toothbrushes made from bamboo and toothpaste tablets, which are especially useful if you’re travelling abroad, as the Border Force won’t confiscate them, as they might with liquid toothpastes.

Crafters and journalists aren’t forgotten either with Coccoina glue that’s been made in Italy since 1927. Created from potato starch and almond paste, it’s a non toxic safe glue that smells of marzipan. Then there are pencils that have been made from old newspapers.

The baby clothes have been made by one of Jessica’s relations, branded under the name of ‘Handmade by Grandma.’ Some of these cute little jackets have been made from bamboo, which sounds unlikely, but are knitted the same way, and is just as soft, if not softer than wool.

Whilst chatting to Frank; as Jessica is currently on maternity leave, he told me about an event that took place in early September at Calverton’s Village Hall. “A local group in Calverton organised this plastic-free pop up shop event. We went along, even though Jessica was pregnant at the time, and it was a very successful day. We met lots of people and saw all sorts of other products. The money that was raised from the event went to the Surfers Against Sewage conservation charity.”

At the other end of Beeston, there’s Out of The World, who also stock green products. I asked Frank how the Waste Less Shop tries to differentiate itself from this larger retailer. “We try not to stock products that they do, and vice versa. If we don’t stock something, then we will send the customer there, and likewise, they will send their customer here.”

As the concern over the environment grows by the day, this can only mean that there has to be a seismic shift in the way that companies make products and how people use them. This also could result in a return to more traditional methods of production and an increase in smaller, independent traders on the high street.

Waste Less Shop offer everyday items to help you reduce your waste. We have a selection of products available to help you eliminate single-use plastic from your home.



I Am Beeston: Remembering Alice Grundy

On the 25th of June 2017, the Canalside Heritage Centre opened its doors for the first time, after being transformed into a wonderful visitors centre and cafe from a derelict row of cottages. Of course, I went along with my Beestonian hat on and the famous ‘I Am Beeston’ sign, just in case I should meet some more brilliant Beestonians.

Well actually I did, and one person, in particular, stood out.
A sweet little old lady by the name of Alice Grundy. Besides her great age, unbeknown to me was that she had opened the centre, as she had a strong connection with the area, in that she had lived on the canal and where her young sister Annie, who was eight at the time sadly drowned.

Fast forward to September this year when Beestonian Towers received a message from her son in law Malcolm and her daughter Lesley. They wanted to chat about Alice and the life that she had led. So one evening, I popped down with my jotter and pen. Fortunately, they had provided me with a transcript of the tribute that had been paid to Alice at her funeral. She sadly died a shade before her 100th birthday. So the following is a slightly condensed version of that tribute.

“Alice was born in Liverpool during 1920. She lived with her parents, grandparents and siblings George and Annie. Unfortunately, her parents’ marriage came to an end, so the three youngsters went to live with their grandparents on a houseboat on the canal in the Rylands. And as mentioned previously, in 1930, Annie tragically fell into the water. Something that Alice never got over. She went to Church Street School, before moving to Nether Street. Alice remembered when the area was farms and fields, and buying beer for her grandma from the original Jolly Anglers pub. She also danced on the stage at the Boat and Horses, and played with the Bagshaw brothers who lived in the cottages before they became the heritage centre.

When Alice was 14, she returned to Liverpool to complete her education and began working in a linen shop. But she learned that her friends back in Beeston were earning more as apprentices at Ericssons. So that’s what Alice did. She moved back to Beeston and worked as an electronics tester.

During World War II, she went back to Liverpool to live with her mum and brother George. But their house was destroyed during two air raids, and so they moved to Yorkshire.

“She was very kind and generous and was a volunteer with the Partially Sighted Group…”

After the war, Alice moved back to Beeston, where she met and married a man called Wilf Grundy in 1946. They firstly lived on Waverley Avenue, before moving to Canalside, then to a house in Chilwell, with their children Kevin and Lesley. Wilf was a lawn bowler, and so Alice joined too and became a brilliant player. They won many competitions, both in mixed pairs and separately. They were also involved in Plessey’s Social Club, where they danced the night away on many, many occasions. The slow foxtrot being their favourite, until Wilf passed away in 2002.

But Alice was always thinking of others. She was very kind and generous and was a volunteer with the Partially Sighted Group, where she helped for some 30 years. She was also involved with the Old Mission and the church on Victory Road. She also used to go shopping for people, and used to ride a bike through Beeston, often laden with groceries, and continued to cycle well into her 70s.

Alice moved to Venn Court in the late 1990s where she was the life and soul of the centre. She kept busy playing darts, keeping fit, and being involved in all the social activities that the independent living scheme had to offer.

She clearly enjoyed living life to the full, being positive about life and always having a laugh. Obviously this positive outlook helped her live to almost a century, despite her early setbacks. An inspiration for us all perhaps.”


Life is a cabaret, old friend

For many, the words ‘British Legion’ means a place that old soldiers can go to for a bit of company and a cheap pint. While that part may be true, the Legion in Beeston also means being entertained at a reasonable price. As four years ago, David Clifford, the former road manager of Nottingham’s Paper Lace and Bittersweet, together with his partner Anita opened the club for cabaret evenings. You can forget the end of the pier and novelty acts that made their way onto the stage in Peter Kay’s comedy series Phoenix Nights, David attempts and succeeds in attracting quality acts that people want to see for a very reasonable on the door price of £5, through his many contacts in the music industry.

David, with much help, charity and goodwill from people and companieshas transformed the inside of the nondescript building into a warm, welcoming space for everyone to enjoy a night out. Full Steam Ahead is a sponsor for instance. Some of the improvements have included LED lights for energy conservation, improved soundproofing to stop the neighbours complaining and stage lighting that originally came from Plessey.

The original use of the building hasn’t been lost, as there’s still an area dedicated to veterans of the Korean conflict and the bar is named Troopers, after the Paras. Although most members of the armed forces now tend to go to Chetwynd Barracks for their companionship.The Cabaret Club’s main audience are people in their 30s and 40s. There’s no age restriction either, so families are made most welcome.

“a warm, welcoming space for everyone to enjoy a night out.”

So what sort of entertainment is on offer? Tuesday evenings are set aside for line dancing, Wednesday’s are bingo nights, Beeston Camera Club meets there on a Thursday, while the cabaret nights are the first Friday in the month. There’s also music or comedy on a Saturday too. The venue can also be hired for private parties like weddings. And David has just opened a smaller room that can be used for meetings. Car parking isn’t a problem, as there’s enough space for 60 cars. The club currently has around 150 members and has a loyal following. David and Anita are always thinking of ways to improve the club, as they would hate to see it close.

For that first-hand experience, David invited me and my wife Gail along to see a show. The next cabaret night featured a Cliff Richard and Cher tribute bands. So I thought that would be a good one to choose. We arrived to a packed house who were enjoying the songs of Cliff and his backing band the Shadooz. Will Chandler does a fair impersonation of Harry Webb and tended to keep to a lot of his early back catalogue songs from the 1960s, so we were spared his latter tunes like ‘The Millennium Prayer’. Kelly Marie as Cher came on next, dressed in a similar costume that she appeared in the ‘Turn Back Time’ video. And no, it wasn’t ‘that’ Kelly Marie, who had a hit in 1980 with “Feels Like I’m In Love’.

At the break, a cheque presentation was made to Breast Cancer Care of £620. This was raised by the club, as one of its members Jayne Walker was diagnosed with the disease four years ago but is now free after going through 16 months of therapy. I had a quick chat with Jayne, who comes from Hucknall and she really wants to get the word out about the charity and its work and was genuinely pleased that the club had raised so much through a charity evening held there earlier this year.

There’s a real family atmosphere to the club as members have their birthdays celebrated. While we were there Cliff led the singing of Happy Birthday to one member.

With a change of costume and Cliff was on again for some more songs to entertain the happy audience. I wondered whether Cher would make another appearance, and she did. Well, Kelly did, but as herself. And was something of a rock goddess. She did an amazing version of Guns & Roses’ ‘Sweet Child of Mine’, which went down a storm with the audience.

So if you fancy having somewhere new to go, then why not give the Legion on Hallcroft a go. You never know, you might decide to become a member.

If you want to know more about the club and what it can offer, then give David a call on 07917 773003.



I Am Beeston: William Charles Wheatley MBE

The name of William ‘Bill’ Wheatley may not be known to that many Beestonians, but to those that do, he means a great deal to them. My only time of meeting Bill was when I went to his house to chat with him as a subject for the ongoing ‘I Am Beeston’ project. Although I managed to take his photograph, for some long-forgotten reason the interview never took place. Now, of course, it is too late, as Bill sadly passed away in June. So as a way of recompense to him and his family, here is a potted history of his life and his many achievements.

William was born on 31st October 1929 on Moorbridge Road in Stapleford. He was the oldest of four children. Archie his father worked at Stanton Ironworks, while his mum Elsie was what is known as being in service, before becoming a wife, parent and homemaker. When Bill was eight, the family moved to Stanton-by-Dale. At 15, Bill got a job at the Ironworks as an apprentice electrician. National Service arrived when Bill reached 21.

Having knowledge of electrical matters, Bill served in the REME (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) where he instructed recruits on radar systems, at their base in Arborfield, Berkshire.

When he was demobbed in 1952, Bill specialised as an electrical engineer in mining and petrochemical sites. He became a member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers and a Chartered Engineer (C Eng MIE). He retired in 1992, after being an engineer for 50 years.

Life changed for Bill when he married his wife Cynthia Chapman in 1957. Bill met Beeston born Cynthia through his involvement in the local Methodist Church on Victory Road. They enjoyed 53 years of marriage, living in the same newly built bungalow on Trent Road in the Rylands before she died in July 2010. The couple had two daughters; Kathryn and Helena. Bill became involved in the church at a very young age, through firstly becoming a choirboy, then as a bell ringer. He loved the Methodist Church nearly as much as Cynthia. as he was involved in the church’s many activities such as teaching, leading the Sunday School, organising a boy’s club and the Christian Endeavour, which aimed at helping young people to find God. In 1963, Bill helped to create the Midland Camping Venture (MVC). This group provided week-long summer holidays for young people and gave them an opportunity to get involved in various outdoor activities. It proved to be very popular, as thousands of young people signed up for these camps. Bill also became a local preacher and looked after the Victory Road church.

But religion wasn’t the only thing that kept Bill busy. After seeing shire horses as a child, Bill found his love of all things nature. He learnt to recognise the calls of different birds and know lots about plants. He even sold rose bushes to Wheatcroft’s. In 1996, he and the late Keith Corbett started the Beeston Wildlife Group, which is very popular with wildlife enthusiasts, and became Chair, after Keith’s passing eleven years later. He was also heavily involved in Attenborough Nature Reserve and other local conservation projects.

His community work was formally recognised in 2008, when he took a trip to Buckingham Palace and received his MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for Voluntary Service to the Community in Beeston, Nottinghamshire’. Bill described this as one of his proudest moments. Then in 2012, Bill was given the Freedom of the Borough of Broxtowe. A fitting tribute to such a remarkable man.


Away from the church, nature conservation and helping others, Bill enjoyed reading, with his favourite novel being Laurie Lee’s ‘Cider With Rosie’, possibly whilst listening to some jazz music. He supported Derby County and was a fan of motorcycle racer Valentino Rossi. He also liked steam trains and a bit of plane spotting at RAF Waddington. Bill also spent the best part of 25 years learning Spanish, and at the age of 79, drove for several hours, so he could do some birdwatching.

An inspirational man by any standards. I went to his service of thanksgiving at Beeston Methodist Church on June 22nd. It was a sad, but joyous affair, with many people relating stories and fond memories about their connection with Bill. A lot were from the days of the MVC. This was followed up with a later meeting that day at the Attenborough Nature Centre.

With many thanks to Kathryn Randall
and Heidi Tarlton-Weatherall for the information and photographs.