The Village (or Market) Cross

Keeper of Beeston’s secret history…

Although not a War Memorial by any means, the story of Beeston’s ‘Village Cross’ is so bound-up with that of the ‘Memorial Cross’. It is no coincidence that Beeston has a ‘cross’ as it’s war memorial or that it should stand on the site that it does. Through changes to the road layout over time, the Memorial Cross now appears to stand by the side of Middle Street. In actual fact this site was once in the middle of the road at this important road-junction between Church Street, Dovecote Lane, West End and Middle Street. Here was once the geographical heart of the settlement that was to become the town of Beeston.

In Britain, over 1,000 years ago, when Christianity began to spread among the pagan Anglo Saxons, the new faith was preached to the people from a stone pillar, (‘preaching cross’) erected in the heart of the community. This was most often close to the manor house, the home of the most important member and leader of the community. Once Christianity had been establish,  a parish church was built, first in ‘wattle-and- daub’ and latter in stone. With the new church, preaching crosses became redundant and many took on a secular use as market crosses. We might add here that this is the evolution of many village crosses, however, there are a large number of market crosses purposefully erected to mark the place of village commerce.

…two of the most important buildings in the community, the Manor House and parish church are close by the site.

It is known that a village cross stood at the centre of the Middle Streets crossroads. Given the facts, it is no surprise then, to find that two of the most important buildings in the community, the Manor House and parish church are close by the site. It is suspected that Beeston’s village cross was once used as a market cross. Certainly there are clues to this effect; it is widely believed that a corn market was held nearby the site, – until the 1860s, Middle Street, from the Memorial Cross to its junction with Station Road was known as Market Street.

The cross was removed, perhaps as a hazard to road traffic, sometime in the 1850’s and the whereabouts of its remains lost until 1929. It was in that year that part of the cross was discovered built into the wall of Manor Lodge, by the headmaster at ‘Church Street Junior Boys School’,  Arthur Cossons. Cossons was an active ‘local historian’ with a passion for Beeston’s history. He recognised a large piece of masonry in the wall as being a part of the ‘shaft’ of a  medieval cross. Proud of his discovery, Cossons had the cross shaft removed to Church Street and erected by the side of the school where it stands to this day.

Did you know?

  • The shaft of the medieval cross, – marked by a Blue Plaque, – can be found on Church Street, standing between the wall of the old school building and the footpath.
  • The shaft, believed to be 14th  century, is now a ‘Grade II’ listed monument. Most of the Victorian Board School was demolished in 2005, however, the headteachers house remains.
  • A Blue Plaque, dedicated to Arthur Cossons is is attached high-up on the gable wall of this building which was his home from 1932 to 1958.

JN

Beeston’s Water Head or Pigeon Perch?

Beeston’s secret history…

If ‘The Beeston Seat’, (the Beekeeper) is a much love piece of ‘public artwork’, there is a second modern sculpture in Beeston which is largely reviled and ignored. Since it installation in 1989, thousands of Beestonians have walk past it by without a second glance. It is certain that today, very few even know its name or troubled history, yet it cost the ‘public purse’ £25,000 and is the work of the award winning artist/sculptor Paul Mason (1952-2006), – considered by some to have been; “….probably the most important sculptor of his generation in the Midlands”. (Professor David Manley). The work of art in question is the ‘Water Head’ sculpture, which stand on the western side of ‘The Square’ in-front of the jewellers shop. Its story begins not in Beeston but in Nottingham.

In 1985 the pedestrianised Lister Gate in-front of St Peter’s Church in Nottingham city-centre was being redeveloped and Nottingham City Council commissioned Paul Mason. According to the Nottingham Evening Post (Dec. 1955), Mason’s objectives were to produce a work that was; “…. contemplative and tranquil, to induce calm in a busy city”. Taking a year to complete at the cost of £23,000, the result was a marble water-sculpture entitled ‘Leaf Stem’.

“Someone seems to have gotten the ‘plumbing’ wrong and when it was first activated the artist’s desired effect was not quite achieved.”

Returning to Beeston, once again we find change, this time the refurbishment of The Square in 1988/89, at the heart of our story. Early in 1989, on behalf of Broxtowe Borough Council, Mr Barry Protheroe handed Paul Mason the commission, to produce a public work of art, – similar in design to the Leaf Stem in Nottingham, – to stand in the newly refurbished Square. The results were yet again an organic shaped tall pillar of white marble. This time Mason christened his work ‘Water Head’ in reference to the gently flowing water, which in theory was meant to run down the exposed surfaces. Unlike its Nottingham counterpart, Water Head was originally fix into the ground directly over a drain for the recycling water, rather than being on a low stepped plinth.

Both the Beeston and Nottingham installations relied on the visual aesthetics of the play of light and water on their sculptured surfaces. Whist Mason might have been considered an acclaimed artist, his engineering skills and knowledge of hydro-dynamics were found to be some-what lacking. Someone seems to have gotten the ‘plumbing’ wrong and when it was first activated the artist’s desired effect was not quite achieved. It may have been the way in which water splashed ‘passers-by’ instead of flowing gently into the drain which generated the dislike of the sculpture, as much as the fact that when the pump was turned off, it was no-longer the spectacle it was meant to be. The Leaf Stem in Nottingham also suffered the same problems with its water flow and drainage. The water quality of both pieces of art were investigated by Environmental Health and found to be lacking. Both water-features were officially deactivated in 1994, (although Water Head was seldom in operation). For a time Leaf Stem disappeared only to be reinstated on a raised flower bed a few yards to the north of its original site, where it can be seen today. Water Head was re-mounted on a square brick-base in an effort to achieve better drainage.

The concepts and beauty of modern art are very much ‘in the eye of the beholder’. Call them ‘Philistines’ or what you will, when the Water Head was unveiled to the public it received ‘lukewarm’ attention to say the least. The Beestonian magazine labelled it the ‘Stump’. When the water-feature was deactivated, it became a favourite place for The Square’s local pigeon population to rest, earning it the nick-name ‘The Pigeon Perch’. With the coming of the Trams and The Square’s redevelopment, the future of Water Head once again hangs in the balance. There are those who would like to see the redundant sculpture gone for good. The writer is not in this mind as it seems a great shame that Beeston should loose a valuable, – in all senses, – piece of public art-work by a well-known artist like Paul Mason. Perhaps the local authority should find a new, more suitable home for it somewhere away from The Square and with a little care, planning and engineering, reactivate the water-feature. Only then can Water Head be seen and appreciated as the artist intended.

Jimmy Notts (Joe Earp)

Beeston Pubs of Today and Yesteryear

Renowned the world over, the great British pub is not just a place to drink beer, wine, cider or even something a little bit stronger, it is a unique social centre, very often the focus of community life in villages, towns and cities throughout the length and breadth of the country.

Pubs can be traced back to Roman taverns, through the Anglo-Saxon alehouse to the development of the tied house system in the 19th century. In 1393, King Richard II of England introduced legislation that pubs had to display a sign outdoors to make them easily visible for passing ale tasters who would assess the quality of ale sold.

Most pubs focus on offering beers, ales and similar drinks. As well, pubs often sell wines, spirits, and soft drinks, meals and snacks. The owner, tenant or manager (licensee) is known as the pub landlord or publican. Referred to as their “local” by regulars, pubs are typically chosen for their proximity to home or work. Beeston is and has for a long time been known for its great many public houses. It has been suggested that Beeston has one of the highest concentrations of pubs-per-person in the United Kingdom. The town has clearly a lot of public houses for locals to call at least one of them their “local”.

Pubs of Today

We will now turn to look at just some of Beeston’s existing pubs and have a look at a brief history of each establishment starting with The Jesse Boot. Known until very recently as The Greyhound, The Jesse Boot was built in 1741, one of the earliest owners were the Stone family who actually brewed on the premises. The present building was modernised in 1984. In the early 19th century in the days of the Industrial Revolution, it is said that Luddites called here and after raising the landlord from his bed to serve them refreshments, marched onto Nottingham to wreak their havoc. This Inn and the Durham Ox (now a Chinese Restaurant), were visited by Reform Act rioters in 1831. Having burnt down Nottingham Castle they marched to Beeston and caused the Silk Mill at Beeston the same fate.

The Last Post is a Wetherspoon’s chain pub which opened in 2000. It is situated in the building of the old Royal Mail sorting office and was adjacent to the town’s former post office. The Hop Pole is a local traditional community pub situated in Beeston. It is a very old, unspoilt pub dating back to 1870. With its lovely original beams and 2 fireplaces, this gives the pub a very warm, homely feel.

The building, on Church Street in Beeston, we now know of as The Crown probably became associated with beer sometime between about 1835 and 1841, although the building itself probably dates from about 1800. The Crown Inn traces its history back to a Mr Samuel Starr who can be recognised as the man who established the pub. He had been brewing beer on the premises since at least 1841. As a ‘common brewer’ he would have sold his beer to anyone wishing to purchase it for consumption at home.

The Victoria Hotel was built around 1839, named after Queen Victoria (1819-1901) – a popular monarch who is often featured on pub signboards. The pub is situated next door to Beeston Train station and like so many Victorian establishments was built to serve the passengers who used the station. In 1971 an eccentric landlord used to keep a small zoo at the rear end of the pub, as well as a python inside!! The collection included a puma, a lion, a leopard and a baboon.

The Star Inn located on Middle Street is an old Shipstones Pub. Not many people know that it has a connection with the television show Auf Wiedersehen Pet. Unlike many other pubs or bars used in Auf Wiedersehen Pet, The Star Inn is an actual pub used in the show, which fans can visit and have a drink. The pub featured in ‘The Return of the Seven – Part One’ episode, when Barry and Wayne take Pippa and Linda for a quick drink. Barry forgets the time, and ends up leaving his Fiancé Hazel and ‘The Wey Ling’. Dennis and Neville turn up in the Jag, and then Bomber, in a pink Ford Cortina.

Pubs of Yesteryear

27867169_1575071472613852_2842120228220771315_n
The Three Horseshoes, Middle Street, Beeston, May 1986. Photograph Credit: Reg Baker.

Quite a few of Beeston’s pubs have disappeared over time with a great majority closing in recent years. We will now look at some of these closed pubs.

The Royal Oak was situated on Villa Street, Beeston. This was a smallish Shipstones tied house in the centre of Beeston.  The Cow was situated on Middle Street, Beeston. This pub used to be called the Beech Tree Lodge and was one of the oldest pubs in Beeston. Tesco bought the pub and demolished it c. 2005 – the store was finally built 2010 and there is now a Tesco petrol station on what was the pub. The Three Horseshoes was situated on Middle Street. This was a Shipstones tied house. The pub was demolished to make way for a tram line.

Other pubs to have closed in recent years include the Prince of Wales which was located on High Road. Although the Durham Ox has not closed its doors it is no longer ran primarily as a ‘traditional pub’ and is now ran as a Polish restaurant.

JN

VILLAGE CROSS. The shaft of Beestons 14th century cross originally at the village centre cross roads near the Manor House. Found by historian Arthur Cossons and re-erected here in 1929.

The Village (or Market) Cross

Keeper of Beeston’s secret history…

Although not a War Memorial by any means, the story of Beeston’s ‘Village Cross’ is so bound-up with that of the ‘Memorial Cross’. It is no coincidence that Beeston has a ‘cross’ as it’s war memorial or that it should stand on the site that it does. Through changes to the road layout over time, the Memorial Cross now appears to stand by the side of Middle Street. In actual fact this site was once in the middle of the road at this important road-junction between Church Street, Dovecote Lane, West End and Middle Street. Here was once the geographical heart of the settlement that was to become the town of Beeston.

In Britain, over 1,000 years ago, when Christianity began to spread among the pagan Anglo Saxons, the new faith was preached to the people from a stone pillar, (‘preaching cross’) erected in the heart of the community. This was most often close to the manor house, the home of the most important member and leader of the community. Once Christianity had been establish,  a parish church was built, first in ‘wattle-and- daub’ and latter in stone. With the new church, preaching crosses became redundant and many took on a secular use as market crosses. We might add here that this is the evolution of many village crosses, however, there are a large number of market crosses purposefully erected to mark the place of village commerce.

…two of the most important buildings in the community, the Manor House and parish church are close by the site.

It is known that a village cross stood at the centre of the Middle Streets crossroads. Given the facts, it is no surprise then, to find that two of the most important buildings in the community, the Manor House and parish church are close by the site. It is suspected that Beeston’s village cross was once used as a market cross. Certainly there are clues to this effect; it is widely believed that a corn market was held nearby the site, – until the 1860s, Middle Street, from the Memorial Cross to its junction with Station Road was known as Market Street.

The cross was removed, perhaps as a hazard to road traffic, sometime in the 1850’s and the whereabouts of its remains lost until 1929. It was in that year that part of the cross was discovered built into the wall of Manor Lodge, by the headmaster at ‘Church Street Junior Boys School’,  Arthur Cossons. Cossons was an active ‘local historian’ with a passion for Beeston’s history. He recognised a large piece of masonry in the wall as being a part of the ‘shaft’ of a  medieval cross. Proud of his discovery, Cossons had the cross shaft removed to Church Street and erected by the side of the school where it stands to this day.

Did you know?

  • The shaft of the medieval cross, – marked by a Blue Plaque, – can be found on Church Street, standing between the wall of the old school building and the footpath.
  • The shaft, believed to be 14th  century, is now a ‘Grade II’ listed monument. Most of the Victorian Board School was demolished in 2005, however, the headteachers house remains.
  • A Blue Plaque, dedicated to Arthur Cossons is is attached high-up on the gable wall of this building which was his home from 1932 to 1958.

JN

The Beeston Maltings

In 2013 Beeston lost a chunk of its heritage for ever and lost a historical industrial site.

The heritage and site in question was the former Beeston Brewery and later Beeston Maltings. The Beeston Brewery Company was formed in the late 1870s and a brewery was built in 1880 alongside the Midland Railway line between Nottingham and Derby. The company had its own railway sidings running off the mainline. The company had both malting and brewery functions on the same site. The architects were Wilson and Company and the builders were Waite, Corbould and Faulkner. It was the first brewery in England to have pneumatic maltings.

“Malt had been produced there since 1878, but closure meant not just the end of malting at Beeston, but the end of Nottinghamshire’s once extensive floor malting industry.”

An extension to the brewery was made in 1884 and a new barley store was added in 1898. In 1881 the manager was Alexander Anderson and who was replaced by Samuel Theodore Bunning in 1883. Bunning continued to manage the company until it was taken over by James Shipstone and Sons Limited in 1922. Brewing ceased and in 1924 Shipstones converted the buildings to a maltings.

In December 2000 the production of malt ceased at Beeston Maltings. It was the last floor maltings to operate in Nottinghamshire. Malt had been produced there since 1878, but closure meant not just the end of malting at Beeston, but the end of Nottinghamshire’s once extensive floor malting industry.

In 2009, plans were submitted to Broxtowe Borough Council to demolish the site to make way for 55 new homes, these plans were initially withdrawn. The Beeston and District Civic Society attempted to get the buildings listed by English Heritage. This bid was unsuccessful as well as an unsuccessful attempt to include the building within a conservation area – which would have given it a greater protection against alteration and demolition.

In 2009 a spokesman for the then current site owners Heineken – who had applied for permission to demolish the building – commented: “The maltings at Dovecote Lane have been redundant for many years. Over the last decade, the four-storey building has become unsafe and unsightly and the building has been a target for many acts of theft and vandalism, which have used up valuable police time. We believe that demolition offers the most viable way to end the constant safety and security problems associated with the building.”

Despite all the plans and campaigns to save the maltings nothing could be done to save the site. The site was deemed “unsafe” and “beyond saving”. The remaining buildings survived until 2012 when demolition started. The site was completely cleared in early 2013.

JN

Beeston Station

Today Beeston Station is as busy as it was when it first opened in 1839. The station is still an important route into Beeston and the surrounding area for many local residents and visitors.

The station is a Grade II listed railway station on the Midland Main Line and is managed by East Midlands Trains. Being located 3.2 miles (5.1 km) south-west of Nottingham the station is also on an easy route to London only being 123 miles 22 chains (198.4 km) from the capital.

The station was built in 1839 for the Midland Counties Railway.  Services began on 4 June 1839. In 1844 the Midland Counties Railway joined with the North Midland Railway and the Birmingham and Derby Junction Railway to form the Midland Railway. The original station was nothing more than a cottage and the growing population of Beeston needed a bigger station. In 1847 the original station was replaced with the substantially larger white brick building with ashlar trimmings which still exists. This is notable for its carved bargeboards, some remaining diagonal paned windows and the pseudo-heraldic shields with ‘MR’ and ‘1847’.

The growth of Beeston’s population in the Victorian and Edwardian periods led to substantial expansion of the station facilities. An extension containing a large booking hall, ladies’ waiting room and parcels office was added to the rear of the station building, doubling its floorspace. After the Second World War the level crossing, lattice footbridge and signal box survived until 1969 when Beeston and Stapleford Urban District Council built a road bridge (“Station Bridge”) across the railway. This was to ease traffic delays caused by the frequent closure of the level crossing. This effectively replaced the footbridge between the two platforms.

During the 1980’s with the decline of passengers using the station led to great neglect which resulted in vandalism and crime. In fact the station’s overall condition got that bad British Rail at the time proposed to completely demolish the station. However the station was saved after a local campaign was set up by the local civic society and local railway enthusiasts.  Their subsequent campaign led to the station being listed in 1987. This was followed by restoration of what remained of the 1847 building and the platform shelters. The original platform masonry survived until 2004 when the platforms were completely rebuilt. In recent years Beeston Station has seen a boost in passengers using the station and it continues to be used by local residents and visitors.

Jimmy Notts

Secret Beeston: book available now!

New Book Available From August 2017
Secret Beeston
by Frank E Earp and Joseph Earp

“The Nottinghamshire town of Beeston as we know it today began life as an Anglo-Saxon settlement close to the banks of the River Trent. By the late eighteenth century the town had developed into a thriving textile centre. The nineteenth century saw a new mix of other industries, including famous names like the Humber Works and Boots the Chemist. Over the last decade Beeston has witnessed its greatest change with the introduction of an extension to Beeston of Nottingham City’s Tram Network. Local authors and historians Frank E. Earp and Joseph Earp delve into the town’s murkier past in this unique approach to the town’s history, blending the serious with the not so serious, and seeking out its hidden secrets”.

Available from all good book shops and also available on-line. The book can also be ordered directly from Amberley Publishing:

https://www.amberley-books.com/secret-nottingham.html

Telephone: 01453 847800

JN

UFOs Over Nottinghamshire

The acronym U.F.O. was created by the United States Air Force in 1952 to describe sightings of flying disc shaped objects previously referred to as ‘flying saucers’

This spate of sightings began in 1947 when aviator and businessman Kenneth Arnold, reported seeing nine such objects flying in formation over Mount Rainier on 24th June of that year. Arnold’s sighting was widely reported in the media and between 1947 and 1952 there followed many thousands of reports of unidentified flying objects of various shapes and sizes from all over the U.S.A. Certainly there was a general consensus of opinion amongst the general public that these were piloted extra-terrestrial craft. Thus was born the modern U.F.O. story.

In Nottingham, a group of ‘Ufologists’ were earnestly studying U.F.O. phenomena. Many of these men had been R.A.F. bomber crew during the War and had been witness to a type of U.F.O. known as ‘Foo-Fighters. These strange balls of red, orange or sometimes white light, first made their reported appearance alongside a squadron of American aircraft in November 1944. From this date onward the crews of Allied aircraft, both American and British witnessed the appearance of Foo-Fighters in both the European and Pacific theatres of war.

It was genuine ambition of one of the founding members of the Nottingham group to persuade George Adamski, starting in Nottingham, to do a lecture tour of the U.K. However, this never came to pass as Adamski died at the age of 74 in 1965.

After working together for several years the Nottingham group broke apart around 1966/67, after the club secretary experienced a more sinister aspect of the U.F.O.  story. As early as 1947, U.F.O. witness Harold Dahl, reported receiving an intimidating and threatening visit from men dressed in black suits who claimed to be government agents. Throughout the 1950’s and 60’s reports of visits by what became known as Men in Black or M.I.B’s, to both U.F.O. witnesses and Ufologist became more frequent. Popular opinion was that M.I.B’s were either genuine government agents or in some cases actual aliens.

The Nottingham club secretary, – a man in his early sixties who had studied the U.F.O. phenomena for a number of years and had amassed a library of books and files, – announced that he had received a visit from M.I.B’s at his home in Wollaton. These two men had told him that unless he gave up his U.F.O. interest, his house would be fire-bombed. Within days of the alleged visit he had sold or given away his entire collection of books, photos and journals and removed every reference to U.F.O’s from his home. Fellow members of the club, even those he had been friends with for many years, never heard from him again.

Slowly the lights drew together and at a point almost directly above our heads stopped and hung side by side in the sky like two bright stars

A mentor of another Nottingham based U.F.O. group (who will remain anonymous here) lived alone in a ‘prefab’ in Aspley decided to advertise for a lodger to help pay the bills. Within a short time of putting a post card in a shop window a young man in his early twenties answered his advert. Giving his profession as a ‘Civil Servant’ the young man stated that he had business in Nottingham and need temporary accommodation. An agreement was made and the man moved in with nothing more than a single small suitcase. Over a few short weeks of his stay, the mentor stated that he demonstrated a good knowledge of Ufology and asked about both U.F.O. groups. At the end of his stay he asked to see members of the group. At the meeting which followed, he claimed to have been an MI6 field agent, one of a number of operatives dispatched by the Government to investigate the threat to National Security posed by U.F.O. groups. Thankfully he announced that they were no threat, packed his bag and they never saw him again.

Another member of the group encountered a siting of a U.F.O. which occurred back in the 1960s:

“On a clear winters evening at around 10 p.m., I was driving my then girlfriend (now my wife) home to Chilwell. Our route took us through Bilborough past Strelley village and south along the Coventry Road. For those who do not know the area, this is a semi-rural road on the extreme western edge of the City of Nottingham. We had reach the cross-roads at Strelley and were turning onto Coventry Road when both of us saw high in the sky, a moving bright star like object approaching us from the south. Making a modern comparison I would say that it was like observing the International Space Station or other artificial satellite. I stop the car a little way past the crossroads and we both got out the vehicle to get a better look.”

“Almost immediately we saw that there was a second identical object approaching from the north. The two seemed to be on a collision cause, becoming larger and brighter as they approached. Slowly the lights drew together and at a point almost directly above our heads stopped and hung side by side in the sky like two bright stars. We continued to observe them in silence for what must have been 3 or 4 minutes.

Suddenly the northern light again began to move. At this stage it became apparent that this object was lower in the sky than its companion, which now seemed even brighter. Moving a little faster than its original approach, it continued south and appeared to pass bellow its still stationary companion, which now shone with the intensity of Venus, (certainly, the brightest object in the sky). After several minutes the moving object was lost to view leaving our attention fixed on the bright object above our heads.”

“It was at this point that something dramatic happened. A small pale blue, star-like light dropped from bellow the bright object. For a few seconds it appeared to free-fall and it shot off at great speed to the west. Seconds later a second identical light dropped and shot off to the east. This was repeated twice more with one light going south and the second north.

The bright object now began to move and continued its original course north. The cold night air had gotten to us at this point and we realised that we had been observing the phenomena for over half an hour. Once back in the car we continued our journey back to Chilwell. I got a telling off from my future father-in-law for bringing his daughter home late. We did not tell him the reason why”.

Memories Of Beeston Zoo

Regular readers to the Beestonian will remember that a few years ago we did a article on the Beeston Zoo which brought back a lot of memories for readers. Just to remind readers who missed the article, the zoo in question was located at the Victoria Hotel in Beeston.

Built around 1839, named after Queen Victoria (1819- 1901) – a popular monarch who is often featured on pub signboards. The Victoria Hotel is situated next door to Beeston Train station and like so many Victorian establishments was built to serve the passengers who used the station.

In 1971 an eccentric landlord use to keep a small zoo at the rear end of the pub, as well as a python inside. The collection included a puma, a lion, a leopard and a baboon. A number of incidents occurred involving these animals- the puma bounded into the public bar and frightened regulars and the leopard bit the landlord. Often he would be seen around Beeston, taking the bear for a walk at the end of a rope.

The ‘zoo’ was eventually closed when a terrified elderly couple complained to the police after the baboon escaped, shinned up a drainpipe and tried to break into their bedroom window.

A while back we were contacted by the Landlord’s Granddaughter who shared a few family stories and photos with us relating to the zoo. Out of respect the Landlord’s Granddaughter and the family wish to remain anonymous so their names will not be used here. Rather than trying to rewrite the memories, we have put them into some sort of  clear order below.

“The previous Landlord of the pub, who kept a mini zoo in the back yard was my Granddad and I recall the zoo and all of the animals. I can recall some fond memories and some not so fond memories of the zoo. I fondly remember in particular the snake he kept and the famous Ben, the beautiful bear.  My Granddad was in the Navy during the war and had quite a war in the South Pacific. Mum said that my Granddad was very business minded and used to charge for the workers to leave their bikes at the Vic. I forgot to ask where they worked but it was a regular thing and her and my Uncle used to collect the money from them.

My Granddad was always fond of animals and always wanted to collect the more exotic type. At the Victoria Hotel he use to have Piranhas on the bar, which he kept for entertainment. He use to feed them mice, for the entertainment of the customers. He used to love sitting with the old guys and playing dominoes too.

He also had a cage full of Monkeys which all died in a fire. It was apparently an electrical fault but I have heard rumours over the years that it was arson but that is only hearsay and as it was many years ago, we will never know the truth of the matter. It is very, very sad, whatever the cause. Monkeys were my favourite, apart from Ben the Bear. He was the most adorable animal you could wish to meet. Can’t say the same for the Baboon. As a child, I recall hating him, as he was pretty aggressive.

My Aunt recalls that Ben was eventually put into a cage as he became around 6ft in size, which is how I remember him. Also that the Baboon was kept indoors with them and slept in her dolls cot in her room when he was a baby. I really wish there were pictures of that. Again he grew and was caged. He was apparently quite aggressive with most people, except my granddad’s wife, who he took a liking too.

My Aunt also contracted TB back then and it was said that they thought it had been contracted from the baboon, she tells me.

The story of the Baboon escaping and banging on a neighbours upstairs window is true I am afraid. The lady and her husband were said to be terrified, especially as the husband was ill. The story says that Kenneth Clarke MP, was trying to have the law changed in regard to keeping wild animals and that he took this matter to parliament. There is a story about this too, separate to the baboon story. It says that Beeston constituents were in fear of the animals and many had applied for gun licences. The article names the neighbour and speaks of her having lodgers who were also woken up by the baboon banging on the window. Also, that she called the police more than once.

The other story I have heard  tells of the Leopard, biting my Grandfather. The Leopard was male and was 18 months old and on my Grandfathers shoulder, when a train passed by and hooted. This scared the animal, which nipped him and caused him to need hospital treatment. My grandfather was quoted as saying that he planned to buy a female companion for the leopard. The leopard had come from a zoo, in the south of England.

Apparently all of the animals were moved on to a ‘official zoo’ following a complaint by a lady, when the Baboon escaped. His name was Joey, if I recall correctly. I do know my Granddad was on ATV on more than one occasion, due to the antics. My Mum relayed to me that when he was asked what he had to say about the Baboon escaping and going into the neighbours bathroom.

He replied in his usual flippant manner, that she was only bothered because the baboon wasn’t a male one. I don’t know how he got away with it sometimes, but he did”.

Joe Earp

The Hemlock Stone

The history behind Hemlock…

12991117_963782553742750_2776138337370853120_n

The Hemlock Stone today is a popular landmark with walkers and cyclists passing the stone hundreds of times a day. The stone as readers may be aware has been scanned by the Nottingham University’s Geospatial Institute in connection with the Nottingham Hidden History Team as part of the ‘Three Stones Project’. The stone is also at the centre of the popular event the ‘Hemlock Happening’, which takes place every year now and has become a popular event.

Today however the Hemlock Stone is largely disregarded, to the extent that in the last few years it has been removed from the list of ‘sites of special scientific interest.’ The old idea of the stone being nothing more than the result of bad quarrying is once again popular and has probably been encouraged by property developers with an eye on the land surrounding the stone. This current lack of interest in the Hemlock Stone has not always been the case and the folklore and legends woven around such stones are an essential part of our heritage.

Legend has it that the Hemlock Stone was hurled at Lenton Priory, some four miles west of the stone, by the Devil. This tale of the Devil or some mischievous force hurling a stone and missing its mark occurs throughout the folk-literature of Europe. It is generally accepted that such legends reflect conflict between the early Christian Church and their pagan contemporaries. The tale is more often than not associated with prehistoric sites like the large monoliths or standing stones erected by Neolithic and Bronze Age man. Such stones were the centres of pagan worship well into the Christian era.

The Hemlock Stone was reputedly hurled from the hill above Castleton in Derbyshire

The village of Kinoulton in southeast Nottinghamshire once possessed a stone with an similar legend to that of the Hemlock Stone. This stone was, from its description, probably a glacial erratic and stood in the churchyard close to the old church. Sadly, both church and stone are now destroyed,

It is interesting to compare the Hemlock Stone and Kinoulton legends in more detail. Both stones were believed to be missiles of diabolic origin aimed at ecclesiastical sites, Lenton Priory and Kinoulton church, respectively. The sites from which the stones were reputedly hurled are also of interest. Both are approximately thirty miles from their targets and both have legends of demonic occupants.

The Hemlock Stone was reputedly hurled from the hill above Castleton in Derbyshire. Below this hill, upon which stands Peveril Castle (from which the town derives its name), is the Treekcliff Cavern. This massive limestone cave, once the home of prehistoric man, is reputed to be one of the entrances to the ‘underworld’ and the haunt of the Devil. Moreover, when heavy rain issues from the cave in the form of streamlets, it is said to be the Devil urinating.

In the case of the Kinoulton stone it was supposed to have been thrown from Lincoln Cathedral, where the Devil once let loose that evil entity ‘The Lincoln Imp’ who, after running amock, was turned to stone by an angel.

To return to the Hemlock Stone and how attitudes have changed regarding such wonders, writing in the mid-eighteenth century, Dr Spencer Timothy Hall, a.k.a. ‘The Sherwood Forester’, provides us with yet more reasons for believing that the Hemlock Stone was once venerated by our pagan forefathers. The good doctor believed the stone to be of natural origin but to be man-enhanced, the result of deliberate quarrying. He goes on to say that when he was a young boy the old folk could remember a time when a fire was lit upon the top of the stone annually on Beltane Day.

Nearby the Hemlock Stone was once the ‘Sick Dyke’. This spring was regarded as a healing well, especially efficacious to rheumatism sufferers. More than one writer on the subject has suggested that the ell was connected with rituals performed at the Hemlock Stone. The Hemlock Stone also has connections with three other stones, a possible standing stone on the nearby Crow Hill and two other local landmarks, the Cat Stone at Strelley and Bob’s Rock at Stapleford.

Joe Earp

Contact Us
I agree to the Beestonian using my data to process this order as per their Privacy Policy. I also understand that the Beestonian will send one e-mail letting me know when new editions are published. I understand I can opt out at any time by using the 'unsubscribe' link.
reCAPTCHA

BEESTLY TWEETS: