Tag: History

Reassuringly Hurt’s

On one of Beeston’s oldest businesses

It’s a day when things could get steamy in Broxtowe. 10℃ over the average for February, and the MP has just resigned from her party while claiming the right to stay on as our representative at Westminster. Maybe it’s a good day for the Beestonian to go and look for something that is reassuringly a good thing.

G.H Hurt & Son on the Chilwell High Road is just the place. You may have visited them when they open on Heritage Days in September, but not know they also open to the public on Saturday mornings (10am – 12noon). They inhabit an old seed mill, built in 1751, which remains a thing of beauty from the outside, but you may be more interested in their famous baby shawls, which suddenly came into the worldwide media spotlight in 2013, then again in 2015 and 2017, when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge stepped outside the Lindo Wing in London with their newborns wrapped in Beeston’s finest.

“…every generation must face its own challenges.”

No-one was more delighted to see their choice than Gillian Taylor, who is in the fourth generation of Hurts to own and manage the business since its inception in 1912. The family has stayed true to its roots, producing fine knitwear that includes men’s and women’s scarves, and caring about their employees as much as they care about their customers and products.

While Gillian hadn’t previously known the royals had their shawls, she had no reason to be surprised, because if the royal family is supposed to represent our country’s core values, then a firm like Hurts surely helps us decide just what those values are.

And they are proof that every generation must face its own challenges; for Gillian it has been to adapt to an increasingly internet-dependent and computerised world. For her father, Henry Hurt (who in his 80s still takes an active part in the family firm) it was to take on the challenge of moving from hand looms to mechanisation when he was barely out of his teens, and he would go on to be awarded an MBE for his services to the knitwear industry. Henry’s own father Leslie had to deal with two world wars, injury and serious illness. It was Gillian’s great-grandfather, George Henry Hurt, who started the whole enterprise in 1912 when he took the step of acquiring the mill so that local knitters could bring their manual handframes together under one roof, and take advantage of shared marketing and production.

In the 1980s everything could surely have been lost, when the area was surrounded by similar-seeming businesses, some of which were buying their products from China. But Henry Hurt wasn’t going to compromise on quality or discard his legacy. According to Gillian it was he who said that if they stuck to their core values and loyal customers then one day perhaps even China would decide to buy from them. With a trade fair in Ningbo, China coming up in April, then ‘perhaps even China’ will be customers for the fifth generation of Hurts?



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.


The Hemlock Stone

The Hemlock stone is famously said to have been hurled by the devil from Castleton in Derby because the ringing of the local bells infuriated him. More recently it has been the focal point for many a folklorist happening; bonfires, firework shows and more. But resident historian, nonagenarian and rapper Eugene Cobblers thinks he can shed some light on the true origins of this fabled stone. But he could be wrong.

The clue is in the name. Hemlock. Some scientists will tell you that the stone is a result of natural erosion and the movement of tectonics, but that’s just simply not true. The answer is in local folklore. The devil really did hurl it. At least a devil of sorts. That is, in around 399 BC locals of Beeston, or Beos Tun as it was then known, and indeed all of Nottingham, were woken one balmy summer’s night by a great roar.

It was the sound of a violent earthquake which tore across the midlands, but was mistaken by the scientifically illiterate folks of the time as the roar of a devilish beast. People ran screaming for their lives, convinced they were about to be devoured by some angry pagan god or monster, and such as it was Pytheas, on his trip around Britain years later heard a great many tales from the locals of when “…the devil made the land tremble.”

Many great stones were thrown upwards from the force. One such was the hemlock stone, which was thus named after landing in a field in which the poisonous plant proliferated. There, that’s it. Simple.

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