Not Forgetting - Chapter 8: The Working Village
In the 19th Century, Bottesford and Muston possessed a variety of small-scale trades and businesses, mostly to meet local needs. Bottesford took on the character almost of a small town, catering for the surrounding parts of the Vale of Belvoir. This set a pattern that continued until the Second World War. Since then the degree of self-reliance has been encroached upon by the modern world of supermarkets, rapid travel and modern communications. The old village, its streets, buildings and close-knit community, now co-exist with an increasing population of incomers and the network of inter-connected businesses, the “global village”. This is understandably regretted by many who remember the quiet streets in which children spread their skipping ropes and lads could practise their cricketing skills in Queen Street police-station driveway.
The years around 1960 can be seen as a watershed, when the expanding modern village we see today started to take shape. Since then, there has been a more than doubling of the population of Bottesford and Muston, from little more than 1500 in 1960 to well over 3000 by 2008. More people commute or work from home. Others have moved into the area to enjoy a quiet retirement. At the same time, many of the old village industries have gone, as indeed have some of the companies that flourished in the decades after the Second World War. Even so, there is a variety of employment in the parish, some local, others branches of national and international companies.
A wide range of craftsmen were in Bottesford in the 19th Century. Watch and clock maker James Lewty worked at his address in Grantham Road from before 1845 till he died on the 5th November, 1900, aged 77 (he still described himself as a watch maker in Kelly’s Directory for 1899). Thomas Braithby was a rope and twine spinner, James Odem a master cooper, James Lenton a “tinplate worker”, James Briggs a tinsmith. Master cabinet and chair maker, John Fisher Hudson, had a workshop on Queen Street, and his son Joseph William Hudson was a saddle and harness maker, possibly in the same premises. There were several boot and shoe makers, tailors and dressmakers.
Blacksmiths shops, essential to the agricultural economy, were set up in Queen Street and next to the Red Lion on Grantham Road. Queen Street blacksmiths included Joseph Burdett, Frederick Wilkinson, Thomas Sentance and Joseph Hall. The Red Lion forge was run during the 1880s by Francis James, who took on the business previously run by his mother Hannah James after his father’s death. Later blacksmiths here were John Dawson and Henry Bateson in the 1930s, then W.J. Roberts during the Second World War, a time when welding was vital to keep farm machinery in order. Thomas Lord was the Muston blacksmith from before 1855 till after 1891, his forge on the site of the present Forge Tearoom. Other craftsmen described themselves as wheelwrights as distinct from blacksmiths.
It was common for people to have several occupations. One striking example was Thomas Pickering (founder of the Calvinist Salem chapel in Bottesford), who was a “farmer, ironmonger, postmaster and agent to the Farmer’s Fire, Life and Hail Storm Insurance Office” in Hagar’s Directory of 1849, then in the 1855 Post Office Directory as “ironmonger, grazier, insurance agent, postmaster”. By 1876, his sisters Hannah and Rebecca ran the business as ironmongers, insurance agents and graziers, while brother Joseph had set up as an ironmonger in Leicester. In the 19th Century, the post-office was located in what later became Standley’s Cafe on High Street close to the junction with Belvoir Road.
19th Century Cloth Workers
The Vale of Belvoir was on the margin of the East Midlands garment industry in the 19th Century. The census of 1851 indicates that there were in Bottesford a “lace manufacturer” (Thomas Goodson), 37 “lace runners” (all women, aged from 14 to 58) and one elderly wool spinner. The lace runners were women who applied edging, filling stitches and embroidery to plain factory-made lace, working by hand in their cottages on cloth supplied by Mr Goodson.
The 1861 census records the same “lace manufacturer”, Thomas Goodson, but only four “lace workers”. There were also at this time a silk glove maker named Eliza Hickson, an elderly wool spinner, Elizabeth Wright, an elderly “framework stocking knitter”, William Augustine (who had moved from Hinckley), and a family of “stocking weavers” from Belper, consisting of Thomas Genning (60), his daughter aged 9 and son aged 5 (both children listed as weavers rather than scholars in the census). However, by 1881 these trades are no longer mentioned in the census and had probably gone completely from Bottesford.
Statistics from census information
Census year 1851 1861 1881 1891 1901
Farm workers 317 228 192 152 116
Farmers 36 38 38 33 30
Workers per farm 8.8 6.6 5.1 4.6 3.9
Population of 1793 1779 1649 1578 1499
Bottesford & Muston
Proportion working 20.0 14.4 15.0 14.0 11.0
on farms (%)
Farming is the traditional constant factor in the economy and society of the Vale of Belvoir. The preceding chapter has described the farming industry in the Bottesford area during the years since the Second World War, a period in which it underwent great change. Looking further back, census figures from the 19th Century reveal that even then farming was providing progressively less local employment as mechanisation increased and farm workers found other jobs or left the area. The following table shows how many agricultural workers and farmers there were in Bottesford and Muston in the 19th Century, according to the censuses. The figures shown for ‘Farm Workers’ include those who recorded their occupation as agricultural labourer, farm servant, farmer’s son, bailiff, groom (although not all these worked on farms), shepherd, dairymaid and so on. They show that the number of farm workers declined steadily, even though the number of farms decreased only slightly. They indicate that in Bottesford and Muston the average number of workers per farm fell from almost nine in 1851 to less than four by the turn of the century. The population of the villages also declined gradually through this period (and would continue to do so until the early 1930s), and the percentage of village people engaged in farm work almost halved. Nowadays, many old farm buildings have been converted to residential use. The villages are surrounded by active farmland yet there is little general engagement of village people in farming, which has become increasingly mechanised and undertaken by agricultural contractors.
Milling and Malting
There has been milling in the Vale of Belvoir since before 1086, the year of the Domesday Book survey. Milling and malting are vital in turning the grain harvest into flour, animal feed and malted barley for brewing. There were both wind and water mills in Bottesford by the 19th Century. The 1824 Ordnance Survey map (Chapter 1) shows four wind mills in Bottesford (five, if you include Stenwith Mill, just within Lincolnshire). The Top Mill, known as Scrimshaw’s Mill and later as Spreckley’s Mill, stood by Bottesford Wharf on the Grantham Canal at Toston Hill. Charles Raithby ran this mill from before 1888 to after 1912, but described himself as a grazier by 1928. Normanton Mill stood on the summit of Beacon Hill, close to the present day Millennium Beacon. Bottesford Mill was close to Belvoir Road, by the corner of present day Rutland Avenue.
The fourth, Queen Street Mill, was on the site that later become Bottesford Steam Laundry, since partly demolished, the remaining buildings converted into flats. Directories record that it was run by carpenter James Robinson in 1849, 1855 and 1863. In 1876, William Hickson was listed in the Post Office Directory as maltster and miller, living at The Chestnuts, possibly operating the Queen Street mill. A later occupant, in 1888, was bricklayer and builder John Daybell Robinson, who c.1900 established the ‘Rutland Pork Pie and Sausage Manufactory’ on Market St. The photograph also shows it to have had both wind and steam power late in the 19th Century. At some point it became the coal-fired Bottesford Steam Laundry. In 1928, the laundry proprietors were J.R. & F. Bullimore, then a Mrs D. Manchester is recorded in 1932.
Easthorpe Water Mill stood on the Devon at the end of Mill Lane, a short way from the Washdyke Bridge. It is likely that it was kept by Theophilus Lane in 1855, then by Arthur Hayes Hickson from 1863 until at least 1912, providing “Services to agriculture, blacksmith and wheelwright, fencing, milling” (according to Wright’s Directory of 1899). Other millers recorded in census and trade directories included William Barnsdale, Thomas Page, Francis Orton and James Taylor, but it is uncertain which mills they worked at. Sedgebrook Water Mill was also on the Devon, nearer to Muston than Sedgebrook itself. A third water mill was located by the river at Beckingthorpe, but it had gone by 1824.
Malting was a very important 19th Century industry in nearby towns, especially Newark and Grantham. It was also carried out on a small scale in Bottesford, and doubtless other villages in the area, often by millers such as William Hickson, Robert and Thomas Robinson and Thomas Page. Charles Hickson, who described himself as a maltster and farmer, lived at Easthorpe Manor in the 1890s. William Leake was a maltster in Queen Street in 1881, probably using the building now occupied by the Malthouse Deli, the kiln located to its rear in what is now part of the Bull yard. There may have been other places where malting was carried out, probably on a small scale using sheds on farms. Whether all the malt produced was used locally is uncertain.
The sandy, well-drained soil in parts of Bottesford was particularly suitable for the growing of soft fruit and salad vegetables.
There were two nurseries in Bottesford during the first half of the 20th Century. Produce was sold at greengrocer’s in the area and at Nottingham Wholesale Market. At one time, grapes and tomatoes were dispatched by train further afield, even to Covent Garden.
The Vineries Nursery, on Belvoir Road, was probably established about 1900 by Thomas Page, who came from Oxfordshire, assisted by his sons (this is not the same as Thomas Page the miller, born in Barkestone, son of a master baker William Page). Another market gardener recorded in the 1901 census was fruit grower Henry Parbury, from Melbourne, Australia, who probably also worked at the Vineries. By 1908 the Vineries had been taken over by William Arthur Robinson, who then owned the business until after the end of the Second World War. The nursery continued under the ownership of Howitt Brothers (Bill, Jay and Len), who kept it until the 1980s when it finally closed. The site is now occupied by the Howitts Road housing estate.
Samuel S. Baggley established his market garden on ground off Nottingham Road in the years before 1928. This was owned by the Baggley family until the 1970 when it finally closed with the retirement of its owner. All have now gone, but there is a small nursery on Orston Lane, selling plants and organic rare breed farm produce.
Local shops produced meat products, cheese and bakery up to the 1950s. Local farmers set up a cheese factory, in the early part of the 20th Century, on Queen Street, where the mill had been. High quality sauces were made by David Hoe at Easthorpe Mill, and pork pies by butcher John Daybell Robinson. Pork pies and sausages were also made by local butchers G.H. Goodson, and Eric George and the Taylor family (who continue to do so to the present day). Since the 1960s industrial-scale food production has become established. Thornhill Poultry Packagers had a factory on Normanton Lane, before Long Clawson Dairy Ltd established a branch on the same site, producing high quality stilton and other cheeses.
There have always been local carpenters and joiners, catering for furniture, building and farming, either working for themselves or employed by local builders. In the 1950s, Mould & Bloomers Ltd provided fencing, tree surgery and related products from their yard on land by Grantham Road. This changed hands in the 1990s and became Walker’s Wood and Fencing Yard. By 1980, Bullock and Driffill Ltd were supplying pre-framed timber buildings and roof trusses from their yard, on the corner of High St and Barkestone Lane. The site had previously been the office and yard of builders WJ. Roberts Ltd. These companies have all closed. Bullock and Driffill left in 1998, though continuing to trade from premises in Staunton-le-Vale (closed in late 2008). The site in Bottesford is now the Hoopers Close estate. Walker’s closed down slightly later, the land becoming the Walkers Close estate.
The quarrying of Liassic ironstone on the scarp which forms the southern boundary of the Vale of Belvoir started after the resources were identified during building of the Melton–Nottingham railway in the 1870s. Quarries were opened over a wide tract from Wartnaby to near Grantham. The workings at Holwell, now a country park, commenced in 1875 and only finally closed in 1962. Men from Bottesford and Muston found work in quarries near Woolsthorpe-by-Belvoir and Harston, which were in production from 1883 to 1972. The iron-rich stone lay just beneath the surface of the fields, and was worked in shallow quarries equipped with an elaborate narrow-gauge railway system linked to the national rail network. In some cases, inclined ropeways were used to lower ore wagons to the railway sidings. One of these operated for a time from quarries near Brewer’s Grave, down to the standard-gauge mineral line close to the Rutland Arms at Woolsthorpe-by-Belvoir. It was reputed to be hard open-air work with long hours, involving a lot of hand excavation. The iron was shipped by rail to works in Derbyshire and later to Lincolnshire. The censuses records 30 ironstone workers in both Muston and Bottesford in 1891, and 22 in 1901. The mining continued through much of the 20th Century, only ceasing in 1972. Now there is little to see, apart from the track of the mineral line from Muston to Harston and Harlaxton, and the quarries at Holwell (now a Nature Reserve), to indicate the former scale of the quarrying.
A number of local building companies have been successful in Bottesford. Hagar ‘s Directory of 1849 records: John Challands, builder, brick and tile manufacturer; William Challands, builder, brick & tile, manufacturer, shopkeeper; James Robinson, builder, joiner, grazier and proprietor of saw mills. Joseph and Hugh Challands continued the family business into the Second World War, their builder’s yard located at The Green. Challands and John Winn were also monumental masons, as their manufacturer’s marks on slate headstones in the churchyard testify.
Wright’s Directory of 1888 also records: Mrs Hannah Norris, builder and wheelwright, High Street and Back Street; John Daybell Robinson at the steam mill, Queen Street; John Winn, builder and cottager. Another builder was Horace Doubleday, who had a depot on High Street from the 1920s until after the end of the war. John Norris & Sons Funeral Directors continued until after 2001.
In the Second World War, the military installations around Bottesford were built by outside contractors, notably Wimpeys who built the airfield, though local people were employed on the sites. After 1945, house building resumed, and development of the modern villages began. W.J. (“Bill”) Roberts, who had been a successful blacksmith and welder, started his remarkable building company. From the late 1940s onwards, this firm built housing, schools, offices and other developments in Bottesford and across a wide surrounding area, much of it for local authorities. A number of older properties in Bottesford, such as Singleton’s Farm on Chapel Street and cottages at the end of Church Street were condemned and pulled down, and new houses built on the sites. W.J. Roberts Ltd also built the Wyggeston Road estate in the 1970s. Its office and works were located on High Street (now Hooper’s Close estate). Roberts’ once employed over 500 people, and maintained a comprehensive apprenticeship scheme. A notable success was building Bottesford Secondary School (now Belvoir High School), which opened in 1960. Of equal (perhaps greater) importance was the construction of modern sewers linked to treatment plants on Barkestone Lane and Normanton Lane, which marked a major improvement to the quality of village life. WJ Roberts & Sons were (and still are) also well known as funeral directors.
Mr Ken Greasley worked for Roberts before setting up his own building contractor’s company. His high quality brickwork is seen for instance in the refurbished Old Rectory and the Church Farm (Greasley Court) development. He took on the clearing of smouldering rubbish from the old brick pit and started the Normanton Lane industrial estate on the site, basing his building works there. Another local builder was William Pacey of Easthorpe. Local building firms provided increasing employment for a range of skilled tradespeople including bricklayers, roofers, joiners, plumbers, electricians and decorators. Although there is now no large building contractor in Bottesford, many local people still work in the building industry and allied trades.
Brick and Tile Making
Challands (William, later Joseph and Hugh), Brick and Tile Makers, appear to have started around 1831 and are recorded in directories from 1849 to 1908. Their kiln was located in a shallow clay pit close to Normanton Lane railway crossing (later a rubbish tip, now Normanton Lane industrial estate). Kelly’s 1912 Directory records Challands, J&H, as builders but not brickmakers, suggesting that the works had closed by this date. Easthorpe brickyard, on the southern side of Grantham Road, was owned by Thomas Hoe up to 1884, but was closed by 1888. There were 12 brick and tile workers in the 1851 Bottesford and Easthorpe census, fewer in later censuses, probably fluctuating according to changes in demand. There were several small-scale brickmakers in the Vale of Belvoir, with its clayey soil and rail access to the nearby coalfields, but competition from larger producers eventually made them uneconomic.
Bottesford and Muston railway workers in the late 19th Century (from census information)
Station master 2 1
Inspector – 1
Railway clerk 2 2
Cashier 1 –
Timekeeper 1 –
Telegraph linesman 1 –
Porter 2 2
Signalman 11 12
Gatekeeper 3 3
Carpenter – 1
Railway labourer 35 4
Platelayer 19 24
Engine driver 1 –
Engine cleaner / fitter 1 1
Brakesman 1 1
Total 80 52
The mid 19th Century saw the arrival of the railway, modern postal services and eventually the telegraph. The railway in particular, was a major employer of villagers, as indicated by census records. The number of workers increased from 12 in 1851 to 80 by 1881, following the opening of the Melton-Newark ‘joint line’, but had decreased to 52 in 1891. The main change over this decade was the fall in the number of railway labourers, probably because they were no longer needed for the construction of the N-S railway from Melton to Newark, which had opened in 1879. Operation of the railways thereafter required an increase in platelayers. Bottesford South station had closed by 1891, leaving only one station master. The railway continued as a major employer until the early 1960s.
Horses continued to provide the everyday means of getting around, and regular coach and carrier services continued to be provided, until the first part of the 20th century. Singleton’s provided a ‘taxi’ service from their stables in Chapel Street. When the use of horses finally declined, there were new opportunities for garages. Ottley’s shop on High Street had petrol pumps: the site later became Nicholls car salesroom, which finally closed after 2003. Christmas and Chorlton’s garage, now Woodhouse and Carman’s, catered for both motorists and cyclists in the 1920s and 30s. There were also petrol pumps in front of Randell’s shop on Market Street. Pre-war omnibus services were provided by William Randell, father and son, from their garage on Market Street behind the present-day oriental take-out. The modern petrol station on Grantham Road was operated by Eric Simms in the 1950s. There was a bicycle dealer at the corner of Belvoir Road, and Greaves’ cycle repair business on Normanton Lane, later in Queen Street.
Gas – The Bottesford Gas Company provided the village with a coal-gas supply. It opened in 1866, with its High Street office managed by James Garner. The price was “5s and 10d per thousand feet, for prompt payment”. By 1908, ownership had passed from William Chester to Frederick Turner, with manager William Horn. After the First World War the proprietor was Mrs H. Turner and the manager William Starbuck. By 1936 the Bottesford Gas Works was owned by Kirkwhite Meters Ltd, who then had it at least until 1941. It continued into the 1950s for street and domestic lighting as well as cooking. The coke furnace and gasometers were on land next to the brickworks on Normanton Lane, close to the level crossing: a children’s nursery now occupies what was the home of Mr Markham, the manager. There was a gas appliance showroom on the corner of Albert Street and High Street, recorded in Kelly’s 1941 Directory. Most houses were connected to the gas system and there was a small number of gas lights at street corners. Residents recall drops in pressure when Sunday dinner was being cooked. Mains gas did not arrive until the later part of the 20th century.
Electricity – Mains electricity was first installed in the 1930s, in the school among other places, but it was on a limited scale, with low voltages and reaching only a minority of houses. It was neither a general substitute for the gas supply nor good enough to support development of new industry. The modern supply was installed throughout the villages in the 1950s.
Mr Peter Mackness described his father’s job during the pre-war installation of electric power. His account is repeated here (abridged): “My father, an electrician, travelled to Bottesford, every working day for two years between 1931 and 1935 to join his workmates at properties where the owners could afford to abandon their oil lamps and install the marvel of electric light, courtesy of the Mid-Lincolnshire Electric Company Limited. The “Mid-Lincs”, which began life around 1930 and had some sort of connection with Lincolnshire and Central Electric Supply Company, had offices and a showroom in Grantham and elsewhere.
The pre-1948 nationalisation electricity supply companies worked within clear boundaries – towns, cities, counties – although there were cross-border, and intra-county agreements. Sometimes both private and local authority undertakings had territories within a county. For instance, the Melton Mowbray Electric Light Company were joint providers along with Leicester County Borough Corporation, though there is some question as to which company was mainly responsible for installations at Bottesford.
The task was to install light and power to those households who had subscribed to the “Assisted Wiring Scheme“, which may have been Government inspired, in which the Mid-Lincs paid part and so did the householder. Father told me that his work in villages took place at large “well to do” properties, where “you had to wipe your feet and be respectful to the owners”, the first to avail themselves of the Scheme’s provisions!
The mains was brought to, say, a farmhouse on poles. If it was a row of closely spaced properties the cables would cross from house to house just below the eaves. Electricians installed 5 amp lighting circuits to each room. These were two-core (feed and return – no earth). Only one power socket per property was installed – in the kitchen – controlled by a separate 20 amp switch (the first sockets were unswitched), mainly for the ‘new electric cookers’. Light switches were always surface mounted on a wooden pattress. A meter, one main isolating fuse and two circuit fuses (light and power) were installed. If a householder required extra installations (lofts, cellars and outbuildings) they had to pay the full additional cost.
The popularisation of the ‘domestic appliances’ was not widespread. Most radios were accumulator powered and electric irons a rarity. Stories of electric irons powered from a ceiling rose bayonet socket are familiar, together with many ‘blown’ fuses!
Properties near towns and larger villages already had gas and much of father’s work in such cases was ‘conversion’. Some people preferred, at first, to choose light fittings which resembled gas fittings. In most of the more remote places light had been provided by oil or candle. In some cases the gas pipework was used as a conduit for rubber coated cables. At other properties, unsuitable lead pipework was stripped out and sold, and steel electrical conduit installed.”
Water and sewerage – During the war years, people still obtained their water from the many wells and pumps around the village, and waste was gathered weekly by the ‘night-soil men’. A mains water supply was installed in Bottesford in 1947, by a company called Bonner, though Normanton residents recall that mains water was available there before the war. With the housing development of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the water supply once more became a problem. Households at the eastern end of the village experienced low pressure and the supply was frequently contaminated with rust and other impurities from an ageing pipeline. In the mid-1970s, a borehole was drilled on Barkestone Lane as part of a coal-deposit survey. A by-product of this was a generous artesian water supply which for a period was used to supply the village. However, the well became blocked eventually, and a new main was installed to secure the quantity and quality of the water supply to Bottesford.
Modern sewerage was not installed until 1960-61, the work done by W.J. Roberts Ltd., who had to overcome problems arising from the loose sands (the ‘running sands’) on which the village is built. A water treatment plant was built north of Normanton Lane crossing. Despite the difficulties, this was arguably a key event in the post-war development of the villages, in that it finally opened the way for an expansion of industry and housing.
A modern industrial centre
Along with the expansion in housing and improvement of utilities, the post-war years saw the development of modern industry in Bottesford. Normanton Lane Industrial Estate was developed on the site of the old brick yard and gas works. First developed as a builder’s yard and depot by Ken Greasley Ltd, it became the home of a variety of companies that have included Marcus Designs (cast metal and plaster decorative plaques), Shepherd Trailors, The Clay Pigeon Company, Thornhill Poultry Packagers, Long Clawson Creameries and Perfectos Inks.
Longhedge Lane Industrial Estate occupies part of the site of the WW2 army camp at Orston Lane. Nissen huts were still be seen until about 2000. Now the site has been re-developed, and houses a variety of companies.
Farther along Orston Lane, close to the railway crossing, another small industrial site has developed on a former pig farm that had been set up in part of the former army camp. Norris Plant Hire and a small cluster of other businesses share the facilities. Relict army buildings, a nissen hut and a long concrete shed (possibly a wartime accommodation block), can still be seen from the lane.
Lastly, the thriving Roseland Business Park occupies the former airfield, spanning the county boundary and thus only partly within the parish. Conspicuous for the ranks of vehicles on the old runways, the site is still expanding, with a range of companies inlcuding Schlumberger Ltd, who set up an international training centre in 1980 by the entrance to the industrial park, close by Three Shires Bush.