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A very special Birthday Celebration July 2018

It is not often that one celebrates the 200th  anniversary of someone's birth. Perhaps it occurs with Kings and Queens, but this was a celebration of the birth of Elizabeth Chambers a "lace mender" who was born in Wollaton in 1818, just 3 years after the Battle of Waterloo. Since then the family has continued to live in Wollaton and her great grandson Ron Cruxon was born here and has lived here all his life. Ron at 95 is also our oldest member and so the Society decided to commemorate this long connection with Wollaton with a special celebration at the Dovecote. We also invited members of Ron’s family and some other “senior” members who were near or over 90 to join us on what turned out to be a beautiful Sunday in July.

Ron addressed his fellow guests and kept us enthralled for nearly 20 minutes, outlining his family history and his recollections of Wollaton in the 1920s. This is part of what he said:

"It was only a village then, there were only 80 or so cottages all of them tied to estate workers of Lord Middleton. The postal address was simply “Wollaton" as everyone knew each other, and in any event my uncle was the postman!

My great grandfather James Davis (see next article) was a collier until he was paralysed as a result of an accident in the pit. My grandfather was originally a farm labourer, each time they moved farm they had to move cottages, which is why they had so many different cottages. Each cottage was tied to a certain job.

In later years my grandfather worked down the pit. My mother was born in Wollaton in 1890. She entered domestic service as was customary and in 1913 was working as a laundry maid at Chatsworth for the Duke of Devonshire. It was there she met my Father who was the "boots". He was also in the Territorial Army and in 1913, after a training camp in Nottingham, at Clifton Pastures, he was called up and sent to Palestine. By 1917 the Army was that short of infantry that they called for volunteers for France. Volunteers were told they would be given 10 days leave, so my Dad came to Wollaton where he lodged with my Grandparents. On the first morning home my Father and Mother walked to St Leonard's Church at 8.30 in the morning and got married by the Rector, the Rev. Russell!

What was Wollaton like in 1922 when I was born? It was part of Basford Rural District Council, outside the City boundary. There were no cars only horse and cart, or a horse drawn carriage if you lived at the Hall. Drinking water was drawn from wells. Water for all other purposes was rain that ran off the roofs and was caught in tubs. Lighting was by paraffin lamps or candles. There were no street lights.

In 1920 a cottage on the Main Road (Trowell Road) came empty and from the Estate Office my Father learnt that this was let to the Landlady at The Admiral Rodney. My Father went to see Mrs Hogkinson at the Rodney. Can I have your empty cottage?  Yes, ‘course you can, but you will have to work for me! So Mum and Dad moved into the cottage (which survives to this day and it was here Ron was born, only a few hundred metres from where he now lives!)

Dad worked at the Rodney, brewing the beer.

The first Co-op Shop came to Wollaton in 1918 and became No 5 Branch of the Stapleford and Sandiacre Co-op Society.” (The shops awning can be seen behind the cart in the picture. The shop moved in 1925 to new premises opposite the Rodney’s car park. Ron worked for the Co-op all his life, apart from when he was in the Army during the Second Would War, as a Gunner, fighting from Normandy, through France and Belgium, into Germany.)

He continued: “The Doctor lived in Stapleford and came by pony and trap to the first surgery which was held in the coal house at the King's Head at the top of Colliers Row (now Bridge Road). Before patients came the coal was taken out and the place whitewashed! Dr Kingsbury paid one of the Allen boys 3d to hold his pony whilst surgery was held."

It was a most enjoyable afternoon. Special thanks to Ron who is a mine of information. He and our fellow quests exchanged recollections and sometimes argued, such as who was the teacher at the school in 1935. Ron invariably came up with the right answer! Not bad at 95!

One of the guests who would have been invited was another 95 year old Harry Bland  

Unfortunately Harry died earlier this year before he could be told that he and Ron, who had known each other all their lives, were in fact related, being distant cousins. This information was uncovered in research being done by Steph Johnstone, one of our members researching the family histories of those who lived in Wollaton Village before 1925.

Harry’s father bought Moss Cottage, 338 Trowell Road, in 1925 and Harry lived there all his life, except when he was in the forces in India during WWII. His daughter Pamela, who now lives in Oxfordshire with her family, kindly showed me around his cottage. It solved a mystery about the bricked up doorway, referred to in the last newsletter. We know that sometime before 1848 James Taylor the Colliery Agent (or manager) moved in and, presumably to make it a suitable residence for him the two cottages had been knocked together. A new front doorway was built between the two former doors which became windows and the second staircase was removed to form a hall and extra bedroom. It just shows how important it is to examine the interior of these cottages to establish their history.


1.    Children at work


Because of the public concern in the 1840s about the use of child labour, particularly in the mining industry, the Government in 1843 appointed Commissioners to enquire into the “moral and physical condition of the young persons and children” so employed. Evidence was taken not only from those responsible for the management of the individual mines, but also the local vicar and some miners. Amazingly, one of those miners to give evidence to the Commission we have now discovered was James Davis, Ron Cruxon’s great grandfather!

The Colliery was then located, just to the south of Balloon Houses, on the Nottingham Canal (at what is now the junction of Grangewood Road and Latimer Drive). The Manager was then Henry Taylor (see above and Spring Newsletter). His evidence was that “the pit is 100 yards deep, the headway 3ft 6 in and the bank 150 yards. They employ five under 13 and 12 under 18 – the youngest being 12. They go down at seven to half past eight, an hour is allowed for dinner. He thinks that boys of 12 could not do the work necessary at the pit and that 12 hours is quite long enough for man or boy to be underground. He has worked for Lord Middleton for 35 years and his Lordship has never allowed very young boys or females to be employed.”

James Davis (who then lived in the Square with his family) stated: “He is 27 years old and has worked in pits since he was eight: he first opened and shut the door for a month for 1s. per day(see illustration below). He helped to wagon (see above, waggons are drawn by a man and the boy pushes behind). When he was 15 he came to Wollaton and had 2s. 6d. per day, but it was much harder. He then holed and had 3s 9d. The youngest in the pit is 10 or 11. There is not good ventilation; he never uses the Davy lamp. The pit is always tried by a man going down with a naked candle. They allow four men or six boys to go down at once. It is not an unpleasant heat, excepting when the black damp is coming. Nearly two years since two men were killed by a fall; not aware of any other accident. He believes that the pits might properly be worked by children above 12, but parents are mostly glad to send them before then, his brother went before he was 7, it was his own doing; he does not know that it did him any harm. Some of the children do not know a letter; some can read a little; some attend Sunday schools, but many do not; He thinks it is due to the neglect of the parent.”

Evidence was also taken from William Mather who said that he “was rather more than nine when he first worked in a pit,” Joseph Pedley, who was 12, and John Levern. “12 years old; they work from half past six until eight o’clock (all have about a mile to walk to the pit); they are obliged to work at night every five weeks, for a week, but then they do nothing during the day.”

Charles Chouler, Lord Middleton’s Agent, stated that “there is no sick fund, but in case of serious accident, Lord Middleton allows 2s 6d a week at least, and finds medical aid.”

One can only hope that James Davis was to receive such help when he received the injuries that paralysed him in an accident at the pit over 35  years later.

To us today, it is quite amazing that none of the people giving evidence thought that children should not be sent down the pit at all!  However, 1s. a day was quite a very substantial sum, bearing in mind that an adult farm labourer would earn about 12s a week and the rent on a cottage was £2. 10s. a year! No wonder parents wanted to get their children down the mine as early as possible!

2.    Children’s Education.

The Commission was also required to consider the moral condition of the children, which would include their education, or lack of it. So we read that: “William Mather learns to read and write, reads the Testament and is in small hand. Before he worked in the pit attended the free school. Joseph Pedley reads in the Testament, but does not write. He has been at Sunday school since he was five: Mather and Pedley do not go to play, but are glad to go to bed, - Levern likes a bit of play: does not know his letters.”

The Commission refers to the “free school that is open to 15 children from Wollaton, 10 from Trowell and 5 from Cossall. They used not to allow children who did not attend regularly to remain in the school, but within these few months the master has rather relaxed, and if there is a vacancy teaches Lord Middleton’s collier children on the days they are not employed in the pit”

We know more of this free school from a rather flowery article in the Nottingham Mercury, three years later, in 1846: “There is a free school founded by the munificence of the noble proprietors of Wollaton Hall for the education of those children whose opportunities allow them to devote a longer time to their studies.   Children of all the different classes of society in the village together; farmers, cottagers, labours, colliers, all send their children to the same foundation for instruction, and all sit as one family side by side, without any distinction other than what merit confers; and as all are obliged to attend equally clean and neat in their persons and apparel and all are equally restrained in the use of vulgar and offensive language.  About 20 children from Wollaton attend the free school, which is situated mid-way between the three villages, so as to be convenient for all” Unfortunately the site of this school is not shown on any map, but we suspect it shared the premises of the Workhouse on Trowell Moor, just beyond Balloon Houses (see photo and 1835 map above).

The other school, the Day School, met in the barn of The Admiral Rodney (see below).

It then had 80 pupils from 3 to 11 years “and there were two or three somewhat older, who served in the capacity of monitors”. The reporter was much impressed; “by the excellent preceptress, through whose zeal and unremitting industry in the discharge of her duties, it has  seldom been my good fortune to witness, as on my visit to the schoolroom at Wollaton, for a school-house there is not yet, though it is impossible but that the excellent clergyman,  whose exertions, I understand, the present school is mainly owing for its establishment, can allow his good work to rest where it does not, or that Lord Middleton should be satisfied to have so excellent an institution carried on in the old Banqueting Room of an inn. There is likewise a Sunday School attached to this establishment for the benefit of those children who have been necessitated, through the circumstances of their families or otherwise, to be removed from the day school.”


Despite this prompting, it would be nearly nineteen years before Lord Middleton would finally build the new school on Bramcote Lane (left) which opened in 1865 and was extended in 1894.

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