Tag: Beeston Rylands

Reading by the Canal

It’s been 6 months since the Canalside Heritage Centre opened in Beeston Rylands, and it’s strange to think of the area without it. The once disused building has been given a new lease of life, and is giving back to the Rylands and Beeston community.

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The centre is also home to a specially written children’s storybook, Dog and Duck’s Canal Adventure, which doubles as an artistic contribution to their wonderful upstairs display area. The book was written by Heather Green, and illustrated by her husband, Johnny. It was originally her project as part of her MA in Museum and Heritage Studies, but her lecturer and trustee of the centre, Duncan Grewcock, saw the potential for it as a display that would appeal to children.

The book follows the two characters, Dog and Duck, as they travel down the canal towards Nottingham. The catalyst for their journey is the construction of the heritage centre, momentarily disrupting their home.

I met up with Heather and Duncan at the Heritage Centre to find out more about the book, and why such projects are crucial to the community.

“The Heritage Centre were looking for an interpretive offer for children and young people and it made sense to do a picture book,” says Heather. “I’m doing a PhD at the moment which is looking at the use of creative writing as a tool for museums, and the idea was to explore this slightly different way of getting information and facts across about a heritage topic to an audience.”

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Before opening, the Heritage Centre compiled some interpretive goals which Heather used to devise the narrative of the book: making a home, making a visit, and making a living based around the canal.

“My husband and I walked up and down [the canal] to try and get an idea of the route,” says Heather. “It was a good way of incorporating familiar scenes for people when they come to look and see the book, but also this idea of who might pass you by as you’re going along the canal.”

It’s really important to make the most of the green spaces that you have

In the book, while Dog and Duck are on their journey, they find an egg and take it with them. The story is about wondering what kind of creature might be inside the egg, taking inspiration from the things they see around them.

Heather adds: “One of the things we wanted to explore was what makes a home, particularly from a child’s perspective. Whether or not it’s the things you have or the place where you live. What is it that makes a home?”

As someone who has lived in the Rylands all my life, and paid frequent visits to the canal year on year, I couldn’t help but think about how the area has shaped my perspective of home, and how lucky I feel to live less than 10 minutes away from the canal. Duncan, however, moved here 3 years ago from London.

“One of the things I found out quite quickly was that there isn’t, in this area, a lot of heritage facilities,” he says. “The canal was so much loved and used for walking, cycling, running…but this place had become a bit of an eye-sore because it had been left derelict for 20 years. And one of the things that you got a picture of quite quickly was that how much genuine support there was to just do something with this building.”

This support and determination was entirely community-focused. “In another world, somebody might have turned it into a pub or something but I think turning it into a community facility, where there aren’t many, certainly not based on heritage, is important for everyone to have access to.”

Heather adds: “It’s really important to make the most of the green spaces that you have. And it’s a peaceful location here.” At this point, we fall silent and let ourselves take a moment of appreciation for our surroundings by glancing out of the window at nature. It’s a moment of quiet pride.

One of the great things about Dog and Duck’s Canal Adventure is that it’s unique to the centre. It features in the book through illustration and photographs, even with small touches such as the centre’s wallpaper design, making it truly personal. The book was also a contribution to UNESCO Nottingham City of Literature, something Duncan and Heather are very proud of.

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“We’re keen to see what more we can do in that context to spread the benefits of the City of Literature as an idea,” says Duncan. “It’s been popular in the shop, and it’s a fantastic addition to the displays as well.”

Manager of the Heritage Centre, Jenny, reveals that they did quite a large print run of the book, but that they’d be happy to print more if they all sold out. She says: “It’s a good seller for us; our bestsellers in the shop are the things that are specific to here.”

Heather adds: “That’s really what the City of Literature is about, inspiring new fiction, and new writing, using heritage and culture.”

Make sure you visit the Heritage Centre, peruse the local-inspired gifts, have a cuppa with a friend, and keep an eye out for fellow Beestonians, Dog and Duck.

JM

Buzzword: Beeston – poem by Jade Moore

Beeston (part one)

It’s lying in bed and knowing exactly which train just went by
(because I live in the Rylands and the train tracks are right behind)
it’s the 25 past going to Matlock so I stay in bed till half past.

It’s the too early too loud sound of a helicopter going over my house
and I’m thinking it’s gonna land on the roof
when really I know it’s going to that field between the tram and train tracks.

It’s multiple texts on my phone from my mum saying ‘are you coming up Beeston?’
And it’s arranging to meet on the benches by Tesco.

It’s being half-dressed (or half undressed) and wondering if I’m being looked at
like in that novel The Girl on the Train, a book that was strangely relatable.

It’s walking down my street passing houses I grew up with
most of them with the same people inside
and it’s seeing my ginger cat race by because instead of leaving, I should feed him.

It’s sticking my headphones in and listening to the same songs I
did when I was a teenager, walking up to Beeston a one person Black Parade.

It’s knowing, from home to the high street, where all the unlucky three grates are
and avoiding them automatically.

(yeah I’m one of those people, blame my sister she started it)

It’s waving to the driver of the Eighteen bus as I go over Plessy bridge,
and seeing the love of my brother’s life as she’s on her way to co-op for a shift.

It’s waiting at the Queen’s Road crossing knowing that when the cars behind me move,
the green man will come on soon and I can continue

and end up walking by that window decorated with seasonal displays: it’ll be Hallowe’en soon
and I can’t wait to see what they create.

It’s looking at my reflection in Amores and saying I’ll go there soon
but I never do, cause I guess I’m too romantic and I want it to be a date.

It’s getting to the traffic lights just before Tesco and feeling sorry for the cars who have to wait
because look there’s a tram coming, and which one’s it gonna be?

Is it D.H. Lawrence, Alan Sillitoe, Vicky McClure, or any of those other big local Nottingham names?
I feel a rush when it speeds up then I look to my left

and the 36 is on its way, I’m not catching that one today but I still appreciate all those journeys I made,
the books I read, the friends I bumped into and the conversations we had.

It’s walking by Tesco, and that empty bit of land,
and it’s seeing my mum sat waiting, just where I knew she’d be.

It’s calling those benches Bench Club, cause we’re there all the time,
and it’s saying hello then sitting down beside her for five minutes
before we both get up and walk down the high road…

Beeston (part two)

It’s hearing the price of strawberries over the noise of people buying them,

it’s walking into WHSmiths and looking at books even though they’re cheaper at Tesco,

and it’s going into New Look cause they’ve always got a sale on,
and coming out with two t-shirts: one that says ‘boys whatever, cats forever’ and the other:
‘I need space’.

It’s waiting in Boots for some tablets, or browsing make up I don’t wear,
then ending up in Poundland buying everything I didn’t go in for.

It’s looking in the windows of Rudyard’s in case I see someone I know,
then forcing myself past Thornton’s because I’ve got plenty of boxes at home.

It’s buying a new diary from Ryman’s, because that’s where I’ve always got them from,
and hoping they never get rid of that notebook, because I’ve made a home in those pages.

It’s telling myself I shouldn’t go in Oxfam Books, cause I’m there on Wednesday’s anyway
and I’ll only buy more books, but I go in and look at the poetry
and they still don’t have any e.e.cummings.

So in frustration I go across the street to what was the Beeston Bookshop,
and is now Book Land
and I pick up a tome for £1 that’ll sit on a pile at home for a while
but still isn’t e e cummings (and they don’t have him either.)

It’s ending up where I always end up, in The Bean.
And it’s getting loads of stamps on my card because I’m there every day.

And it’s writing, or reading, or meeting, or just drinking,
but here I’m surrounded by people who know Beeston.

So it’s being on my own in a cafe, and knowing I’m not alone,
because I get my shopping from Sainsbury’s,
and I buy too many books from Tesco,
and I have to divert to Lidl for the pastries,
and I’ve never known a high street without a beeman,
or a small town with so much going on.

So I stick my headphones back in
and pretend I’m a performer and that the whole of Beeston is singing along.

 

Jade Moore

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

Life by the Canal

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The time is almost upon us. The opening of the dynamic Beeston Canal Heritage Centre is now only a month away. Well it will be by the time that you are reading this.

For those with a good memory, or with an interest in Beeston’s history, or even both will know that the buildings in question are four weir cottages that had been abandoned for years. Slowly rotting away and disappearing under mounds of ivy and moss.

But things changed in 2015, when the newly formed charity won £687,200 from the Lottery Heritage Fund, and after some more fundraising, project leader Stuart Craven and his team of eager volunteers, began the challenging job of clearing the site of rubbish and vegetation, ready for the rebuilding and restoration of the eighteenth century buildings. The main reconstruction work has been under the expert knowledge and skills of Kirklington based restoration company Bonsors’. Due to the location of the weir cottages, the tons and tons of building materials needed, had to be brought in by barge. Which for a canal heritage centre can’t be a bad thing, as it’s keeping the tradition alive. The whole transformation of the centre has taken some eighteen months.

It will be something very new, very special and unique for the community

When finished, there will be a heritage section, where visitors can learn about the history and stories of the canal and the buildings. Then there will be a retail area and a café, which will serve freshly, cooked hot food. A chef called Brian has recently been recruited to do this.

Upstairs there will be a room called The Weirview, which will provide gallery space and can hold up to sixty people for meetings or events. This will include a small display of ‘Canalside Curiosities’. Artifacts that have been unearthed during the works. A small lift has been installed, for those that can’t manage stairs.

The outside is to be put to good use too, with the creation of a kitchen garden, where local schoolchildren can visit and will be able to see at first hand where fruit and vegetables actually come from. Shatter their illusion that they are grown in plastic bags at the local supermarket. Cycle hire should also be available. A team of volunteers are currently working on creating a lawned seating area and a wildflower border.

I met up with Visitor Operations Manager Jenny Aldridge, who gave me a tour of the site. Work is progressing well with new flooring down, walls painted, new windows installed and the balcony area nearly completed.  Special furniture is currently being constructed by the Derby based East Midlands Wood Recycling Team.  Everything should be finished by the end of May. You can tell how proud and enthusiastic she is about the project. And quite rightly so. It will be something very new, very special and unique for the community. Something to add to the tourist map of the NG9 postcode.

Saturday June the 24th has been billed as the official opening date. This should be in your diaries, as it will be well worth experiencing. The celebrations start at 10:30am, and will go on all afternoon. Shrek the workhorse will be there, together with jazz in the garden and dancing from members of the local Hindu temple. There will also be an exhibition from Beeston Snappers, who have been taking photos throughout the whole process. Stuart then finally gets to see the finished product, after all those years of beavering away raising money and trying to get his dream off the ground. Well done that man.

The centre is looking for volunteers to help run the place. So if you have skills and an interest in administration, education, catering or retail, then Jenny would love to hear from you. Or if you fancy being a co-ordinator, a walk leader or a welcome volunteer, then they are needed too. Training and support are provided. In fact, if you just want to volunteer your time, then give Jenny a call on 07376 378101, and she’ll be very pleased to hear from you.

CDF

 

Beeston’s Changing Times

We reflect on the changing nature of our town over the years

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Photo credit: Joe Earp

Changes to the places where people live are inevitable. Sometimes change is a slow evolution and is hardly noticed. At other times, as with the trams, the change is sudden and dramatic and has a huge impact. There are those who will remember the building of the shops of the Square in the 1960’s, the Bus Station and Multi-storey Car Park. This development took away the ancient centre of the old village, which was once around the crossroads of Middle Street, Dovecote Lane and Church Street, close to the Manor House. It was here that the medieval cross once stood, probably where the War Memorial now stands. Although there are no written records, it is likely that the cross was the focus for a busy and thriving market.

The cross was taken down in 1860 and its stones used in a nearby wall. Here it remained until 1926 and its chance discovery by local historian and headmaster, Arthur Cossons. Cossons had the fractured stump of the 14th century cross shaft re-erected close to his beloved school on Church Street, where it still stands, now marked with a ‘Blue Plaque’.

Beeston as we know it largely owes its existence to the development of a Saxon village close to the Trent and Derby Road. This village was surrounded by pasture and grazing land from which it takes its name (Bes – rye grass and tun – settlement or farmstead). The origin of this ancient name is still preserved in the name Beeston Rylands, to the south of the town.

The plague carried away a third of Beeston’s population of between 300 and 350 souls. Their bodies were interred in a communal grave on the east side of the Churchyard, adjacent to where ‘Wilkos’ store was.

At the time of the Norman Conquest of 1066, the then village had three Saxon Manors belonging to Alfag, Alwine and Ulchel. By 1086 these had passed to the Lordship of William Peverel. Although there is no mention of a church in Beeston at the time of the Domesday (1086) it is likely that one existed. When Peverel endowed his Priory at Lenton he gave the ‘living of the church’ and the right to appoint a vicar to the monks. Probably under their influence, the simple wattle and daub structure evolved into a substantial stone building on the site of the present church.

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Photo credit: Joe Earp

For the next 400 years not only the Church but the whole of Beeston and its villagers came under the control of the powerful Lenton Priory. By the year 1538, the year of the Priory’s Dissolution under Henry VIII, the medieval building had reached its height. It was in this year that the plague carried away a third of Beeston’s population of between 300 and 350 souls. Their bodies were interred in a communal grave on the east side of the Churchyard, adjacent to where ‘Wilkos’ store was. This was later to be known as ‘the plague hole’.

Approximately where the Wilkinsons store was, were cottages known as ‘The Poor Row’. These simply built homes were given to the poor of the parish where they could live rent free. The cottages were demolished in 1844/45. What became of the poor unfortunates whose homes they were is not recorded.

Briefly interrupting the story of the area of Beeston directly affected by the Tram extension; Beeston saw one of its greatest changes in the early 19th century. It was at this time with the growth of the weaving industry that Beeston’s status changed from village to town. The first silk mill was built in the ‘new town’ in 1826. In 1831, after suffering various fortunes and a number of owners, the mill had passed into the hands of William Lowe.

In Victorian Beeston, the cycle of demolition and rebuilding continued. In 1842 the medieval church was surveyed and, with the exception of the chancel, found to be unsafe. Demolition of the old church was completed by 1843 and re-building around the medieval chancel completed by 1844.

Despite the increased industrialisation of the town, the illustration of the church at this time shows an idyllic scene, with sheep grazing in the surrounding pasture, something hard to imagine today. Not only do individual fields and closes survive, but their names survive on existing maps betraying a history which stretches back beyond the town’s Saxon roots.

One such plot to the east of the church, where the Argos store now stands, was known as Roundhill. Across the Square, around the area now covered by Lloyds/TSB Banks, was Roundhill Gardens. The Round Hill to which the names refer was an ancient Bronze Age Tumulus which occupied the site of the Wollaton Road Methodist Church. It was upon the summit of this grassy knoll that the village stocks were fixed. Stocks were introduced to every village during the reign of Edward III, in 1376 and continued to be used until 1840. They were used for the detention of minor criminals, drunkards and the like, who could be detained for a few hours at the pleasure of the local authority.

A little way to the west of the Round Hill, on the site of the old Town Hall, was another village institution, the Pinfold. This was a walled or fenced enclosure which projected a little way into the road. It was used to confine cattle and sheep which had strayed from their fields. The duty of ‘rounding-up’ these strays fell to an official called the pinder, who was elected annually at Easter. When you are next travelling on the Tram through Beeston, consider it as your personal time-machine and think of the history contained within this short journey.

JE

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