Growing up in Bottesford in the 60's & 70's
A personal history
By Richard Bradshaw
My first memories of the village are from the early sixties when my parents, my brother and I moved to Pinfold Lane from nearby Muston, where we first lived after I was born in 1960. I have many fond memories of this time and the long summer holidays playing in the huge field behind our house picking great armfuls of buttercups for my mother and running along the ridges of what I later came to realise was one Bottesford’s last ridge and furrow fields. In those days the old Stanton-Staveley ironstone line was still in operation and I remember waving to the drivers of the squat, black steam trains pulling the seemingly endless, open brown trucks full of stone. Long after the engine had gone by you could still count these (sometimes as many as fifty), which I would often listen to laying in bed on hot summer nights as these went clanking, long into the distance.
Ever since I can remember I was always keen on nature and I used to go bird-watching around the massive and ancient hawthorn hedge that ran along the back of this field. It was so old that the centre had gone and it was known locally as “the secret passage.” In the spring you would always hear a Cuckoo and in summer, you would sometimes see Grey Shrikes, which are rare now due to the loss of so much of their habitat. The field itself I always thought was a wonderful place with its central pond, which had a huge fallen tree laid across it. Norman Gale (next door) told me it had been made by a jettisoned German bomb during the war, which had also felled the tree, but whether this was true or not, I didn’t find out. A particularly vivid memory of this time for me was of my school mate, Stuart Barrat who used to come up and see me from his home in Barkstone Lane. We would go over to the pond to bounce on the limbs of the old tree pretending these were horses, whilst singing at the top of our voices “Champion the Wonder Horse”, which was on the ‘telly at the time. Another vivid memory of this time -based around our television set- was during the holidays when my mother would shout me in from the field to watch Fireball XL5 or The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. Anyone who remembers this show in particular should check out the YouTube website which has files of the theme music from all these old shows which certainly takes me back to that time.
There were few houses down Pinfold Lane in those days with the last ones being Tommy Samuel the Coal Merchant and the Burrows’ farm at the end of the lane and I remember spending a lot of time down there with Andrew “Bugs” Burrows who was another of my early school mates. This old red-brick farm and its outbuildings supplied many an afternoons’ pleasure, and sometimes we would go and watch the men load coal in Samuels Coal Yard which was close by. I remember Pinfold Close being built and other kids coming in which provided more mates especially the Selby family, with brothers Andrew and Ian, and the Grainger Brothers’ Pete, Tony, and Neil. Our big adventure site in those days was the William Davis estate which carved up my beloved field, and became BowbridgeGardens. I made many an evening raid into that estate to flood the footings or let down the tyres on the J.C.B’s hoping that they might go away, but of course they never did.
In the holidays, the Pinfold and Bowbridge Lane kids (when we weren’t falling out) often roamed for what seemed like miles, down the old ironstone line (disused by this time) or to Catfish Bridge or Red Bridge on hot days just to cool off or to look for fossils in the river and fish for Bullheads, Minnows and Sticklebacks. On the odd occasion, especially if Steven Hare came along, we would be more adventurous and might even make the trek to Three-ArchBridge. I often wonder today if ours was the last free generation and how parents nowadays would never dream of letting kids out of their sight all afternoon like they did in those days, but I hope I am wrong. What might also be considered unthinkable now were such young kids running errands. People thought nothing of it in those days and I often used to go to the shops for my mother or ask Mrs Branston or Mrs Hallam in Pinfold Lane for errands, which got you a few pennies pocket money. When this paid off I used to go to Millers on the High Street to buy a, Walls Sky Ray or spend my money on Football or Batman cards. Sometimes I would go up through Pinfold Close, and over the stile, to take the field way, past the Square to Rosie Dyers shop to buy gobstoppers or one of those small bottles of Tizer, which were 5d but gave you 2d back on the bottle, so if you drunk it outside and took the empty straight back, it only cost 3d.
My early school days are very similar to my Uncle Mick’s (see Michael Bradshaw’s page) with my first teachers also being Miss Walker, followed by Mrs Logg. We then moved to Mrs Hughes’s (class 3) and then into Mrs Lees (class 4) whose classrooms were housed away from the main school in two huts.
Our last teachers in those days were Mr Shakespeare and Mr Jones before my class went up to Belvoir High in September 1970. About this time I remember the air of excitement that surrounded my Uncle Mick, Auntie Liz and my cousins because they were emigrating to Australia. I remember as if it were only yesterday going to Grantham station to see them off not fully realising that it would be years before I saw any of them again.
Not long after we moved from Pinfold Lane to North Crescent into the house they had just vacated, I remember this time very well because of the strange feeling resulting from the void left by my Uncle Mick, Auntie Liz and my cousins, that was edged with a kind of excitement because this meant a whole new horizon for me moving up to a new house, a new school, and of course new friends as well, who included Nicholas “Sam” Samuel (next door) Alan “Billy” Mitton, Chris “Monte” Hadlow, and Chris “Spud” Taylor. When we weren’t at school most of our time was spent outdoors either in the “back field” playing wars, British Bulldog or messing about across fields or in the Winterbeck around the small bridge up Barkstone Lane. Kids today might not think it now but the River Devon also provided a great source of fun and amusement, especially in the warm weather around the ford area and in the area close by the church. The semi-rural aspect of the village was also a source of great activity. This included Palmers Hills, with its cold war communications bunker, to play in, and what we used to refer to as Station Fields, where, before the second Davis, or Beckingthorpe Estate was built we would often go looking for mushrooms or “conkering”. Adjacent to the Bede House on Normanton Lane was an area known as Tinkleys’ Orchard or “Tinks” as we called it, which, during harvest time, was a great source of fun for scrumping apples and plums, which occasionally meant a mad scramble out of there when the aging Tink, would chase us off with his walking stick. When dark nights came this meant games like Tin-Can-Copper using a lamp post in Silverwood Road as “Home”, where (as well as those mentioned above) over a dozen of us would join in including the Gregory brothers (all known as, Greg), Paul, Karen and Lorraine Adlington, Godfrey “Ears” Sutton, Neil “Coddy” Coddington, Steven Allcorn, Rodney and Denise Broad (both nicknamed, Bean), and Andrew “Brown Owl” Brown, Sharon “Nursie” Flack, and I if have forgotten to mention anybody, then please feel free to blame my aging memory.
Monday nights meant Bingo at the V.C. Hall and I remember going round to my Nan Bradshaw’s in South Crescent to walk there with her alongside “Aunt Ada” (Bond) and her daughter, Heather who taught me to whistle using my fingers. I believe she got told off for this, especially as I soon learned to wolf-whistle very loudly and I remember practising so often that even Merediths Minah bird started mimicking me. As we got older some of us used to go to the Youth Club in Muston run by Mrs Pepper. This closed in 1972; I think it was, by which time most of us were old enough to attend Bottesford Youth Club run by George and Marge Sharpe, which was always a good place to hang out. I have fond memories of Marge (with her knitting) and dear old George, with his big cigars, who always let you get away with stuff…… so long as you didn’t push it too far!!
On a Tuesday or Thursday evenings there were night classes in certain things held at Belvoir High School and for a couple of years I attended fencing classes run by a dapper little Swiss gentleman called Monsieur LeHail. During these lessons we would have a half-time tea break and on one occasion, this was late and he went to look for the tea lady, whilst Mark Brooks “attacked” me in true Hollywood style, forcing me to retreat backwards up the stage steps in the main hall. During this interlude, Monsieur LeHail returned with the tea tray, and spotting us with crossed swords, shouted, “Mark, Reechard, come down, we are not Errol Flynn!
For the lads however, the greatest source of entertainment (in any season) which deserves special mention was of course the tip which lay in the field hard by the railway crossing on Normanton Lane. Bottesford Tip was a brilliant place for us kids and though it is hard to believe now the long hours we spent there easily dominated our spare time. Throughout the seventies, be it spring, summer autumn or winter this open-cast tip was a never-ending source of amusement. Not only was it an endless source of targets for air-rifle or catapult practice (there was always an abundance of bottles on the tip) but as a place of ratting, starting fires to stand around, making dens in the thickets behind, and last but certainly not least, a place of making good money which, in a village that had several antique shops in it, you could sell any decent old stuff that you found. If they didn’t want it you could always take it up to Millingtons Farm on the Elton side of the village who always bought any old farming or railway stuff that we would often come across. On many occasions, Billy Mitton and I would often muse that, without knowing it, soon after meeting up we would always head that way, as if the tip had a magnetic pull of some sort. By the late 70’s of course it ceased to be an open-cast tip and skips were put in behind a concrete ramp system, but that didn’t stop us as we would still root through these with relish, until a gated, and eventually a manned system was introduced that put a stop to it.
When not at the tip however, we were at school of course and I went with my mates up to Belvoir High School In 1970, aged 10 where we joined what was then something of an experimental year known as, 10 plus. This was I believe an experiment in secondary education first conducted in Leicestershire and was our first experience at this school, which, like it or not was to become a big part of our lives over the next five years or so. BelvoirHigh School plays an important part in any history of the village so I will record as much as I can remember.
Belvoir High School and the “10 plus base”
I have very fond memories of this time, (Sept-1970-June 71) and of our teachers, Mr. “Pedro” Simpson, Mr. “Tommy” Cooper, and Miss Jesson who delivered our lessons in an enthusiastic, Blue Peter fashion. We built models of things and went on nature rambles up the Grantham Canal with Mr Honeybone; on trips to museums in Grantham and Nottingham and who could forget those weekenders to Edale and to London to see the Tutankhamen Exhibition, where Ian “Woody” Woodcock, after inspecting a life-size photograph of the mummified remains of the Boy-King, shouted out, “Look Miss, you can still see his willy”. My deepest respect and further fond memories also have to go to, Andrew “Dubbin” Doubleday of Long Clawson, who, in our very first week at Belvoir High, belted Robert “Foghorn” Osborne, knocked him out, and managed the hitherto impossible feat of shutting him up; poor old Foghorn….but my, how we laughed.
Music Lessons with Phil “Sprat” Spratley.
What about old Sprat eh? Who took us for music and games? If you had him for games, believe me it was like watching the late, Brian Glover in the sports-field scene, from the film, Kes. In music lessons he had two slippers (one black one, and one white one) called Fred and Mable which I certainly had across my arse on several occasions. The culprit, not only had to choose which slipper, but also had to endure an executioner-like “long walk” (before the sentence was carried out) to a slow march and then a final drum roll performed on one of the music room’s tatty snare drums…..priceless!!! He used to work on the railways and I learned more about their workings (and the ancient and honourable game of Shove-Ha’penny) than I ever did about music, yet from him somehow, I acquired a lasting love of the great English composers Butterworth, Vaughn-Williams and Holst as well as an abiding interest in old English folk songs.
The Strange Case of the Mr Carr & Mr Martin thing.
Does anyone else remember the strange behaviour of Mr “Spitfire” Martin anytime he and Mr “Harry” Carr met in the corridor? I once saw old Spit get quite desperate and dive into the boy’s bogs to avoid Harry. We never did get to the bottom of what had gone on there though there were a few unfounded rumours, based around the fact that Mrs Martin had once locked Mrs Carr in the Library?
Biology-Rural Science Lessons with Mr “Spitfire” Martin.
Talking of Mr. Martin though, his lessons were always fun and hands-on, and if you showed willing you got all sorts of jobs given to you. One task I remember particularly well was one day in the early spring with Saltby-Sproxton schoolmates John Steans, Andrew Tilley and Colin Clark, which saw us moving two huge sacks of seed in a rickety old wheelbarrow with the added pressure of an impending rainstorm. I was desperately trying to steer the thing, with them three supposedly present to “help” by steadying the ancient vessel, whilst old Spitfire was directing the whole operation in his usual animated style. When it came to the part where it required the extra care and effort to push it up the ramp, Spitfire turned his back for a second and Clarkie picked this time to prod one of the others in the ribs when suddenly the wheel collapsed spilling the seed everywhere. Well, you could see Spitfire was about to blow and I vainly tried to defuse the situation with some humour by saying, “at least the birds will have a feast”. Spitfire went absolutely crackers at me, shouting, “feast? FEAST? (and showering me with spittle, hence his nickname) get it picked up laddie.” He sent the others scuttling inside and, believe you me, he made me pick up every bit of it, even when it started to rain hard, whilst the others looked on from the classroom hardly able to contain their mirth.
Daisy & Co;
I would like to place a permanent memorial here for the school animals especially the cow, Daisy…….. Yes, we had a cow at school that came to us for a while and resided in Mr Martin’s Rural Science section along with the odd pig or two. This was at a time when the school governors needed to visibly exhibit a pro-active profile in enhancing the concept of the Secondary Modern education whereby, in a country school, the sons and daughters of farmers could learn to interact with cows, chickens and the odd pig (you work it out). Daisy, bless her, was an awkward old sod and when it came to moving her she would always try and take off. No one wanted anything to do with her but Andrew “Tee” Tilley however (see form photo), was her greatest fan and would hear no ill word said against her, till she squashed him against the wall and stood on his foot after PE one day (whilst still wearing his plimmies) and made him bawl. Poor old Tee, but believe me, the rest of nearly peed our’sens laughing.
A word of remembrance is also necessary for the Peacocks (the school mascots), the Golden Pheasants, the rabbits, the gerbils and the dreadful things they had to put up with. Sometimes, I would sneak up to the school in the evenings with Billy Mitton and Monte Hadlow and me and Billy would strain to lift the cages for Monte whilst he got his arm under and tried to pull the tail feathers (what trophies they were eh?) out of the big, male peacocks. On the way out Monte would often try and entice the chickens by the bike sheds with bits of crisp or Midget Gems, and if one was ever fool enough to get close to him, he would grab it and heartily wring its neck. Monty was a year or two older than us and had already left Belvoir so I had to be extra careful to feign a shocked disbelief in biology classes, when Old Spit used to wonder out loud to us, why his chickens kept dying on him. The rabbits also deserve special mention here, and we all took turns to look after them, but it just didn’t do to get too fond of them, as Spit used to gas them, open ’em up and have them ready and waiting for us in biology lessons. I witnessed many-a-traumatised third-year girl (and the usual two cohorts) run, shrieking out of lessons in floods of tears because they’d just recognised some favourite nailed to a board with its vitals exposed after overdosing on the ether……. Precious memories eh?
Skinners Buses and Sponsored Walks.
Anyone that went to school in this era will certainly have memories of Skinners Buses, who bought the kids to school from the Vale of Belvoir and the Sproxton-Saltby-Croxton areas, and later took many of us to MeltonUpperSchool. It was John Skinner however (a great driver who always got us there in one piece), who always seemed to take us on school trips and I especially remember our 1974 Dieppe trip where we all witnessed his skill jockeying a huge Bella-Vista, school bus in busy Paris traffic to let an ambulance through to pick up a dead wino from a shop doorway; Boy!!, we thought we’d seen it all, I tell you. And what about those forced marches (or Sponsored Walks as they were called) around BelvoirCastle grounds to raise money for the Sports Hall Fund? The size of them blisters next day eh? And they were compulsory too!! I bet they wouldn’t be allowed to get away with that one today though.
Memories of the staff from Sept-1970-June 1975
Mr. Reed, “Moses”, Headmaster.
Mr. Ellis, “Eli”, Deputy Headmaster & History.
The 10 Plus Base.
Mr. “Pedro” Simpson.
Mr. “Tommy” Cooper.
Mr. Houghton, “Fagin”, English, later replaced by Mr Fitzpatrick, “Fitz” in about 1972?
Mrs. “Connie” Reid, Drama & English.
Mr. Hodson, “Slim”, Combined Science.
Mr. Martin, “Spitfire”, Biology & Rural Science.
Mr. Brown, “Charlie”, Art & Design.
Mr. Carr, “Harry”, Woodwork, Metalwork, and Technical Drawing. (Mrs Carr, Librarian, R.I.P. both.)
Mr. Warwick, “Griswold”, French & European Studies.
Mrs. “Fish” Fisher, French.
Mr. Towers, “Alton”, Mathematics.
Mrs. Illingworth, “Ivy”, Needlework and R.E.
Mrs. “Una” Stubbs, Domestic Science.
Mrs. Sheardown, Girls P.E.
Mr. “Dai” Williams, P.E. & Games, later replaced by Mr. Collins in 1973?
Mr. “Phil” Spratley, Music, Games.
Mrs. Coleman and her staff, (most excellent) School Dinners.
Jim Hutchinson, Caretaker.
Ted Parnham, Groundsman.
Mrs. “Nasty Nora” Allen, Mid-Day Supervisor.
Mrs. Lane, School Nurse, & Mid-day Supervisor.
My most sincere thanks to all of them and my best wishes to any who look in on this site especially Mr. Brown (my old form teacher), Mr. Spratley and especially Mr. Ellis who taught me the value of honesty, self-discipline and a love of history. Over thirty-four years later I still have fond memories of all the teachers and my time at this school …. Just as Mr. Ellis always told me I would!! After looking out some old photographs for the Bottesford History Project recently the realisation dawned on me that it is thirty-five years ago next year (since June, seventy-five) that I left this school, which prompted me to add a few words of my own; Well, o.k., an essay then, but I am allowed to get all nostalgic now I am nearly fifty.
In the summer holidays, as we got a bit older, some of us decided we wanted to earn our own cash to buy our Levi’s, Dr Marten’s and the latest favourite L.P. and went to work, potato picking for Sheardown’s at Woolsthorpe. In the run up to Christmas some of us would go to Chandlers Farm in Muston to pluck turkeys and I remember discovering, along with Adrian “Jal” Jallands, how you could still make a dead turkey fart!!!! I also had a paper round and my delivery was, The Paddocks, Church Lane and Wyggeston Avenue for 75p a week, 6p of which, I spent on the Victor, Valiant or sometimes Hotspur. When I delivered Wyggeston Avenue I often used to have a few words with the (now well-known) journalist and author, Robert Harris, who used to go to school on his mums bike; a green Raleigh RSJ, the one with the hinge in the middle; remember them?
Life on Mars?
I know that the above mentioned T.V. show kindled a lot of interest for the seventies and for youngsters born after that time that want to know what it was really like, I can honestly say that Bottesford was a great place to grow up and go to school in. There just isn’t enough space to relate all the things I got up to with Monte, Billy, Sam and Spud, but suffice it to say that the village still holds many fond memories for me. I well remember long hair, flared trousers, tank tops and those shirts with matching kipper ties and huge collars. I know it’s a tired old cliché for the young of today to hear their parents spouting the usual, “we entertained ourselves”, but that’s exactly what we did do. And what fun we had too, jumping off Mill Dam into the pond beneath, fishing for Gudgeon in the Devon and the Winterbeck, conkering, climbing trees, making dens, skinning our knees, and otherwise damaging ourselves (I broke my arm tearing down Canal Hill on my brothers Chopper) falling off our push bikes,
O.K., I know none of us were as innocent as we’d like to make out, and don’t people always say that, “things were much simpler then”? But, believe me they really were. It seems hard to believe now, and almost quaint, that the only black shadow that sometimes reared its ugly head or played on our minds was what the Russians might do, as opposed to the problems of today. We knew nothing then of ozone depletion, global warming, sound bites, political correctness, or what a “role-model” was; nor did we know that “food to go” would one day replace the take away, and that other nasty, American habit, Trick or Treat, would eventually eclipse our own Penny for the Guy, or that local government would ever consider banning fireworks and Bonfire Night on health and safety grounds. One of the biggest differences since then however, has been that of choice, and who would ever have believed that there would ever be more than three flavours of potato crisp, and that, one day, whole isles in supermarkets would be dedicated just to breakfast cereals.
I can honestly say that from my own point of view, the 1970’s really were great days to grow up in, with few worries that I can recall. It was a time when Roxy Music, David Bowie, Slade and T. Rex ruled the airwaves, and daytime television and videos were still a brand-new concept. Youngsters today are often amazed that, in what only seems a short time ago, there were no play stations or mobile phones, no computers, No Internet!!!……..Lord! What did we ever find to do? Now you know why we spent so much time down the tip!
In 1975, my year left BelvoirHigh School to go to KingEdwardVIIUpperSchool in Melton Mowbray, which doesn’t really relate to Bottesford but suffice it to say, the chaos continued until we were spat out of the system in 1977 the year of the Silver Jubilee.
As soon as the street parties were over I got my first job as Commis Chef at the George Hotel in Grantham and then at the Manor in Long Bennington, and although I didn’t mind the work, the split shifts and weekend hours were hard to take at that age so I gave it up. After a couple of months in labouring jobs at Walkers Products and Mold and Bloomer’s I got a job as a double glazing fitters’ assistant with a local installer; a Londoner, who had recently moved with his family from Slough to the Beckinthorpe Estate in Bottesford. For the next three years I got a real education accompanying him on many jobs, (one week in London, the next in Blackburn) staying in B&B’s and commercial hotels for the duration of each contract, which for a 17-18 year old, was a real eye-opener, I can tell you. In 1979 I worked for a year at Belvoir Grass Dryers until I got a job as a postman in Grantham where I stayed for five years, until they booted me out for always being late, and the following day I got an interview up at Belvoir as a groom at the hunt kennels.
A Life in Service
In 1984 I started in Hunt Service, which is the term for anyone employed in this industry. I took to the life like a duck to water from this time on, and, for the first two seasons, I was able to live at home in Bottesford but in May 1986 I took a job as Kennelman at Fitzwilliam Hunt near Peterborough and moved away from the area for the first time.
After a season at the Fitzwilliam I went to the Pytchley in Northamptonshire and then back to the Duke of Rutlands for another season before taking a job as Second Whip at the Essex and Suffolk Hunt in Hadleigh, Suffolk, for a season. From there I went to Abergavenny in Wales as First Whip to the Monmouthshire and then as Kennelman to the Old Berkshire Hunt for three seasons before moving to the HighPeak in Derbyshire, where I met my partner, Cath, and where we still live today.
I stayed at the High Peak Hunt for five seasons and then did a further two down with the Cotswold Hunt where a serious work accident curtailed my working life for a while and we left there and moved back to Bakewell where we still live. I used this period to do something I had always wanted to do and went to University where I studied for four year-and-a-half years and gained a 1st class honours degree in an environmental based science.
As long as I can remember I was always a collector of something or other and interested in old stuff and nowadays I collect old English horse brasses and am an active member of the National Horse Brass Society of which I am a committee member, and their website designer. (Check it out if you like on, www.nationalhorsebrasssociety.org.uk) I enjoy writing and often submit articles for the society journal and I am currently working on two books about such things. Aside from this I also enjoy producing my own images for such publications and digitally restoring old photographs. This latter interest should, I hope prove very useful to the Bottesford History website as many of my family had a keen interest in photography and took many shots of the village in its past and of some of its people, which I will contribute in the coming months and years. These include many wonderful colour shots of the village from the 50’s taken by my Grandfather, Arthur Bradshaw, and many of the 70’s taken my late father John Bradshaw and even a few by me!!
For anyone that knew me in those days, I extend my best wishes, (and apologies if I was too much of a pain) and I hope you have found this amusing, especially the Belvoir Road Co; and the kids of Pinfold Lane. I also have many fond memories of Bottesford Angling Club, and although I never shared my fathers passion for fishing (not for a want of his trying, mind), I knew so many of them from their constant evening visits our home in North Crescent, and I will contribute any B.A.C images that my father took as times allow. Best wishes also to the old colonial, Mick Bradshaw, who prompted me to add my bit, so don’t blame me for the length of it, write and complain to him!!!