Tag: Local history

Beeston’s Green Man

A Green Man is a sculpture or other representation of a face surrounded by or made from leaves. Branches or vines may sprout from the mouth, nostrils, or other parts of the face and these shoots may bear flowers or fruit. Commonly used as a decorative architectural ornament, Green Men are frequently found in carvings on both secular and ecclesiastical buildings.

Usually referred to in works of architecture as foliate heads or foliate masks, carvings of the Green Man may take many forms, naturalistic or decorative. The simplest depict a man’s face peering out of dense foliage. Some may have leaves for hair, perhaps with a leafy beard. Often leaves or leafy shoots are shown growing from his open mouth and sometimes even from the nose and eyes as well. In the most abstract examples, the carving at first glance appears to be merely stylised foliage, with the facial element only becoming apparent on closer examination. The face is almost always male; green women are rare.

Beeston does indeed  have its  very own Green Man.  Blink and you might miss this one. For those wishing to take some time out from the Town’s busy shopping streets it is recommended that you take a little stroll, – as Beestonians have been doing for over 100 years, – through Dovecote Lane Park. This wonderful wooden sculpture entitled ‘The Green Man’ is located in the enclosed garden area of the park at the Trevor Road end. Rather than saying anything about it, we will let him speak for himself.

The Brass plaque attached to the stone base tells the whole story:

‘This sculpture was carved by Stan Bullard (1920 – 2012), a Beeston sculptor, from a piece of yew tree in autumn 2008. It was undertaken as a commission from Broxtowe Borough Council to replace the ‘One World Sculpture’ on this site which commemorated Earth Summit 1992. The new sculpture has as its theme “man’s interaction with the natural green world.” The sculpture also marks the 100th anniversary of Dovecote Lane park which was opened in 1908′.

The ‘One Word’ sculpture replaced by the Green Man, was another of Stan’s works. It consisted of a ‘totem pole’ type carving of a man’s head, with falcon like shoulders and abstract tree like body. It was painted yellow and black and gloss varnish.

Once again we will let the original plaque tell the story:

‘This sculpture was carved by Stan Bullard, a Beeston sculptor, from a beech tree, felled at Strelley after storm damage. Work commenced in Beeston Square on One World Day, 30th May 1992 and was completed as a commission from Broxtowe Borough Council to commemorate Earth Summit 92′.

Note that Stan gave a live demonstration of his work before completing and installing it in the park.

JE

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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