Beeston Memories

One of our more far-flung fans, Keith Walker from New Zealand, sometime sends us his memories of the Beeston he remembers from many decades ago. We thought we’d print some of these, and see if any of our more senior readers have similar memories…

Canon Halet was Vicar of Beeston from 1943 to 1962. He was a well-known personality, always in a cassock. Beeston Parish Church was very busy in those days and there were frequently a couple of curates sent there to assist. The church had a very active Youth Group in the late 1940s and the 1950s and when I reached my teens, I became a member. We would meet twice a week in an old building owned by the church on the right hand side of Station Rd going towards Queens Rd. I think it was somewhere near where the bus station is (or was when I visited Beeston about 16 or so years ago). I assume it’s still there.

We were a very active group. We played table tennis in winter, tennis at the courts on University Boulevard during the warmer weather, often late in the evenings; we got Ben Travers farces and other plays from the library and had lots of fun play reading. Through the Notts Education Dept. we arranged all sorts of activities such as Scottish Country Dancing. We organised bike rides: a popular destination would be Mount St Bernard’s Abbey. From time to time, the Vicar would send one of the curates to ‘organise’ us. We would listen politely to what he had to say, ignore him and continue running ourselves, I
guess we must have been a pain in the backside for Mr Halet!

I often wonder what has happened to everybody. We could be anywhere in the world if we have survived!

As we got to 18, the boys had to do their compulsory service in the Forces although some got deferral for education purposes. I joined the RAF for three years although when I was able to get home we all kept in touch through our church membership and really were able to stay together as a group. However, as time passed and we got older, some paired off and married, people moved away for work and eventually the old group was scattered.

I am sorry to say that after all these years I have forgotten far too many names, though some still linger. There was Jennifer Brown, a popular little girl; there was Jackie whose
father worked for Barton’s; the two Christines; and Arline Lee who worked at Derby Royal infirmary. My best friend was Jim Wright. He worked as a draughtsman in (I think) Stapleford after he finished school. I often wonder what has happened to everybody. We could be anywhere in the world if we have survived! I think it is likely that some of the girls could still be around Beeston but probably using different names as they married. Who knows?

A friend of mine was in Beeston about a couple of years ago and tried to find anyone from those days but was unsuccessful. It seems I could be literally the last man standing from those times. If there is anyone who remembers them, it would be good to get in contact again.

During the war my maternal grandmother, Mrs Annie Martin, lived in one of the row of houses in Chilwell between the shops at the bottom of School Lane and the Cadland pub. She was a widow and as the house was fairly large she ran it as a boarding house mostly for the wives of troops stationed. at Chilwell Depot. After the war, she moved and bought a large house on Queens Road and made it into a series of bedsits and small flats. She could be a fearsome lady and was very strict. All the cooking was done in a communal kitchen at the rear of the building accessed through her living room so she could supervise what was happening. She taught young married couples how to cook if necessary. Usually after a few months they would be happy to return home where they had more freedom! But to me she was ‘Paddy’ and I loved her dearly. When I was born, she said she wasn’t old enough to be a ‘grandma’ so she never was and chose the name ‘Paddy’. When I returned to Beeston for a visit some years ago I was surprised to find her old home had turned into St Andrews Hotel which I understand has since closed and is, I think, student accommodation for the University.

KW

Beeston memories

One of our more far-flung fans, Keith Walker from New Zealand, sometimes sends us his memories of the Beeston he remembers from many decades ago. We thought we’d print some of these, and see if any of our more senior readers have similar memories…

In the days when I was living in Beeston, there was a gated level crossing at the end of Station Rd by the railway station, which was the only road access to the Rylands and Ericsson Telephones factory. At the other end of Beeston Station was a footbridge from the end of Dovecote Lane leading to a footpath between Ericsson’s sports field just behind the station and the factory grounds, I think that is still there.

In those days, long before electronic banking was even thought of, it was the law that all wages and salaries had to be paid in cash and every week a car went from the factory to the bank to collect the cash for payday, the next day. With something like 6000 people working there, it was a very large amount of money, all in relatively small denomination notes and coins. There were plenty of different routes from the bank to the level crossing so the run was fairly secure.

A Land Rover was used to stop the wages car, the wages were snatched and another car used for the getaway

However, at some stage a bridge was put over the railway near Boots factory and that provided an alternative route into that part of Beeston between the railway and the river. The car carrying the weekly wages for Ericsson’s had only one route from the crossing gates to the factory and one day sometime after the other route was opened, the wages car was intercepted about 100 metres or so from the factory gates. From memory, a Land Rover was used to stop the wages car, the wages were snatched and another car used for the getaway. It was a very bulky load which would have taken some time to move from one vehicle to another. I worked in the pay office and remember it took a large 4-wheel trolley to carry the cash from the car to the office where the wages were made up for payment.

The getaway car was eventually found behind Lord Trent’s bust at the midway point of University Boulevard. I don’t know whether the thieves were ever caught or whether anything was ever recovered. I do know the bank had difficulties collecting enough cash together in a short time to replace the money that had been stolen.

When I visited Beeston in about 2001, I was surprised to find the level crossing gates had gone: there is now an overpass so traffic into the Rylands area isn’t delayed.

I have just finished watching, for the umpteenth time, the movie ‘Beestonia’. The old photograph of a WW1 bus running on a ‘balloon’ of coal gas reminded me that during WW2, Barton’s did exactly the same with at least one of their single decker buses. I was only a little lad at the time, about 9 or 10 years old.

During the war, Ericsson’s built several supposedly bomb-proof shelters in the factory grounds. They were used for file storage after the war. They were reinforced concrete, with walls about a metre thick, with a sloping ramp between the outer and inner walls and inside the inner wall, stairs leading up to the different floors. There was a third wall and inside that, the rooms where people could shelter. They have obviously gone by now but I wonder what exactly happened to them. They would have been difficult to demolish.

KW

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