Recollections of Post War Bottesford
By Michael Bradshaw
I always look back to my early life in Bottesford as a very memorable and happy time. With my father’s promotion to Sergeant of Police, we moved to Bottesford in 1948. I was 5 years of age, previously living in Tilton on the Hill Leicestershire. I always remember how much bigger every thing seemed, the village and especially the Police Station in Queen St. My father’s time in Bottesford is described in Police Sergeant Arthur Bradshaw.
Going to school for the first time was to me quite an ordeal, but it soon became accepted as part and parcel of life. My first teacher was Miss Walker, and how lucky we all were to have this dedicated very able teacher, and I often reminisce about her ability, and how much we learnt about not just the three R’s but life in general. The small 1 third pint milk bottles every day at play time, the trip across at lunchtime through the Bull Hotel car park for school dinner’s in the old Chapel in Queen St, and it never failed to amaze me how all those children could all be served a hot meal every day, well done “The Dinner Ladies”. I can still remember the Sago, Semolina, Steamed Jam Roly Poly with Custard, and Rice Pudding, and all these to this day I still enjoy on the odd occasion! [To see a larger version of the picture of Bottesford School in 1949 go to Miss walker’s Class in 1949 – Ed]
We all very quickly settled into our new environment with all the wonderful places to go and see. The river Devon was always one of my favourite places to play and fish, around the Church Yard, and at the Old Mill. At that time the mill was still in use, Mr Bains being the last Miller I think, as every day in the morning and again in the afternoon, the increase in the level of the water was quite noticeable due to the water flow directed back into the river, and usually not long afterwards the fish really came on the feed. The Old Rectory was also on the list as a play area, particularly the old stables at the main gates, at the Church St entrance. And in summer all the apple, pear and plum trees in the area were all well visited. The river as we remember it was a great deal different to today’s, it had a great deal of life along its banks, and also in the water itself. I think after it was opened up by the River Board to allow it to flow quicker, it took away a lot of it’s charm, and I also believe the presence of the huge amount of ducks have done nothing for its condition.
The Village ponds, one in the Cricket field near the Bowling green, across the Belvoir Rd where the Council House’s are now, and several others down Barkestone Lane were always a great place to get frog spawn, frogs and newts. The bird life in the area also was abundant, with possibly some species no longer seen in the district, Spotted and Green Woodpeckers, Plovers, Tree Creepers and Kingfishers .
The Sand Banks on the Devon was a great place to swim in the summer, and at this point it was quite deep water, it was close to the end of what now is Riverside Walk. And also the Three Arch Bridge on the old Newark railway line. The Grantham Canal also was always on the list as another great place to explore and fish, and in the winter to skate, and I always remember also the field on Grantham Rd and on Normanton Rd before the railway crossing quite often would fill with water, and then also freeze over. These I think were clay pits which supplied the old brick and tile kilns, adjacent to what is now a Child Care Centre on Normanton Rd, and it was also the site of the Gas Works. And another large hole near the Bede House, under what is now a Cheese factory and several other businesses, was the village refuse dump, this I remember as a must visit place to obtain all things collectable, my first bicycle came from this wonderful source of discarded treasures.
The village as I remember it had quite a lot more shops than at present, starting with Mr Moulsher’s at the Cross, Mr Stanley and later Mr Montiegriffo, next to what is the News Agent’s, Mr Ottley’s opposite the Rutland Hotel, demolished in the 60s, Miss Silverwood’s opposite the Post Office, Miss Randell on the Queen St Chapel St corner, Mrs Rosie Dyer on the other side at the end of Queen St and in the middle of Queen St the Co-Op store, these shops all sold general produce. The bakers in the Village were opposite the Co-Op Mr Freeman Brown, and on Chapel St and the road to the Green, Mr Tom Simpson, also Mr Parr from Redmile delivered by van around the villages as did the local butchers Mr Taylor, Mr Bugg later Mr Goodson, and Mr George next to the Post Office. Also the last delivery by horse and cart in the area, by Mr Guy Lovett, also Mr Tom Samuel both delivered coal and coke in the district. An ice cream van, and fresh fish, as well as fish and chips came round the villages regularly. We also had in Queen St a Cobbler, Mr Wing, in the shop that is the Fruit shop, I remember seeing him through the window with his mouth full of small nails, picking them out one at a time, before hitting them with his hammer into a new leather sole, it always amazed me how he never swallowed any! And almost opposite to the left of the Co- Op, Mr Greves the bicycle repairman. Also, in the shop in Market St, which afterwards became an Antique Shop, was another Shoe repair-man, Mr Jack Ball.
In the early days we only had one Gent’s and Lady’s Hairdresser’s, Mr and Mrs Deakin, the shop was opposite the Cross and Stocks on Market St, and they lived at the back of the shop. My first recollection of seeing television, was quite often after school we would go round and watch “Muffin The Mule” on their 9″ Bush T V. Her father was Mr Randell. He still had his large Garage behind the shop, being over the rear fence of the Police Station, before we came to Bottesford, he ran a bus service. To go to Grantham and Nottingham, it was either Trent, or Lincolnshire Road Car, and to Melton Mowbray with Barton’s, and the train also with regular services to Nottingham and Grantham and in the Summer excursions to Skegness. The Army Camp on Orston Rd had a film night as did the VC Hall, and I went on a Saturday morning to the Granadier’s in Grantham.
Weekend shopping was usually done in Grantham, with the Market and Catlins Café always a very lasting and wonderful memory. I can still taste the toasted teacakes, cheese on toast, Kunzel cakes, and remember the smell of freshly ground coffee as you walked through to go upstairs to the Restaurant.
Melton Mowbray and the Cattle Market usually because my father had to attend so we sometimes took the opportunity and went with him for the day, and also on the odd occasion to Nottingham and Leicester, usually at Christmas time to see a Pantomime or a show.
One memory, it would have been late 40s early 50s, the removal of rationing on quite a few commodities that were finally available after the war, so I went to Mr Ottley’s and bought for the first time an assortment of sweets, liquorish and other goodies, all displayed in large screw top glass jars. After you made your selection they would weigh them into usually one quarter pound lots, and put into paper bags. The same also at Rose Dyer’s shop, the only difference being, she put her fingerless gloved hand into the glass jar, and when it came out some of the sticky boiled sweets were attached to her gloves. Much later on I heard that she was the person used by the local Undertakers to layout the dead, and I often wondered if she still kept her gloves on for that service also. Needless to say I never returned for any more un-wrapt sweets,
The Police Station was home and Office, and as a family we took turns when required to pump up water into a large tank in the roof, the pump being hand operated was on the wall in the kitchen, and it had a marker above the pump to tell you when it was full. The well was in the living room with an inspection lid in the floor, and I often wonder if it’s still there. Other jobs like chopping sticks, and fetching in the coal, were all shared and pocket money handed out at regular intervals. The area where the coal was stored was originally the old Lock Up. The large hallway in the centre of the house I remember my father on several occasions getting a movie projector and showing old films, Laurel & Hardy, Mickey Mouse, Old Mother Riley, and Abbot and Costello. Much to the enjoyment of all that were present, so when a little later on, imagine how we all felt when we met in person Laurel and Hardy when they visited Laurel’s sister Mrs Olga Healey. Her husband Bill and she were the licencees of The Bull Hotel, and good friends of Mother and Father. My nephew still has the original personally signed photograph.
The driveway of the Police Station was always a well used piece of ground, the garage doors closed, and wickets marked in chalk, being most nights as the cricket pitch for the local lads throughout the long summer nights, 6 and out if the ball was hit over the gates at the end, or over the wall into Mr Taylors garden. On one occasion I hit a ball over the gates, over Queen St, and through the open bedroom window of Mr Brewster’s house opposite, unfortunately the blind was down, so the ball passed through leaving a large hole. I was 6 and out, banned from cricket in the yard, and had to pay for the damage with my hard earned pocket money.
The VC hall and Field were used for all school sports and football, P E usually inside the VC hall. And cross country running always a favourite of mine, usually up the Belvior Rd to the canal bridge, along the towpath to Easthorpe Lane, then to Easthorpe, coming back to the VC Hall via the footpath from Easthorpe.
Progression through the different classes. Miss Walker, Miss Davis, Mrs Logg, Mr Wilson, Miss Middup, Mr Carr, Mrs Ogden and In final year Mr Stimpson, not forgetting Mr Dewey Headmaster. All these wonderful people in their own separate ways, contributed in my opinion, to an incredible array of skills and talents, and I always think how lucky we all were to have had that start in life being so soon after another World War and with all the misery that terrible event brought.
Without singling out any one teacher, Mr Dewey must have been my earliest hero. His knowledge of the world and things ancient and modern. I along with other classmates helped him to compile an early history of the district, “The North East Corner”, what a shame no one ever put it to print. I read it last time in 1986, when I called on Mrs Dewey and borrowed it for a short time when we came to England for the year. It was still in the proof form as we had collated it, I do hope one of the Dewey boys inherited it, and might sometime publish it. Local history was always a favourite of mine. He also taught us the growing of vegetables, and how to prune and to graft the fruit trees in the orchard at the school gardens up Penfold Lane, we would have an afternoon tending our plots during the growing season. A lot of the produce being used in the production of school dinners, and the skills in every thing horticultural have stayed with me all my life.
Mr Carr in his ability to impart the skills of woodwork, metal work and technical drawing, also these are attributes I have use on many occasions. He was obviously a very competent tradesman.
And last but no means least, Mr Stimpson. He taught everything from music, art, science, physics, geography, and his ability to impart his knowledge has always astounded me to this day. He was a veritable “One Man Band”. This being my last class and teacher.
In 1953 the Coronation of the present Queen Elizabeth II. My Father along with Councillor Keel, Chairman of the Bottesford Parish Council, organised a Gala Sports Day for all the children in the Parish in the VC Hall field, and all children were presented with a Commemoration Cup Saucer & Plate. And in the same year my father retired from the Police force and we moved to 8 South CrescentBelvoir Rd leaving behind a lot of lovely memories of Queen St.
A very vivid memory was not long after moving to our new house, we had our first television, and we watched along with all our friends and neighbours the Coronation of the present Queen, quite a memorable event!
In my early teens I was involved in Scouting, and this I look back quite often as being another source of a lot of knowledge and skills gleaned from Skip Howitt, and other dedicated people that gave their time to help us all learn so much about life. Camping at Ancaster, and the clearing and preparing a campsite, which is still used by the 1st Bottesford Scouts today. We also went away on camp to Walesby Forest, Severn Beach in Bristol. I still have very fond memories of them all.
The Youth Club In The Old Coffee house was another great pastime, the dance’s at the VC Hall and Watton on a Saturday night, Woolsthorpe also another popular spot, learning and being involved in square dancing. Nottingham on a Saturday night, Dancing or Skating, and the cinema at Grantham and Melton Mowbray. So our lives were always fairly hectic with very little time to get into mischief! During this time we started a Skiffle Group and we played at several venues in and around Bottesford. We never got into the hit parade but we had a lot of good times.
During this time I helped Jerry Firth on his farm on Barkestone Lane, milking and general farm work, also I delivered evening newspapers 6 days a week, and in the football season twice around the district on my trusty Bike.
In1956 I finished school and got an apprenticeship as a Painter & Decorator with Mr Allan Abbott. My brother John also served his apprenticeship but with Allan’s father Mr Lou Abbott. John at this time had to do his National Service, and during his absence I filled the void until his return 2 years later. I also look back on learning a trade as a very happy time I was very fortunate to have a good tradesman like Allan Abbott to teach me all the tricks of the trade. Also at this time I worked along side of Nelson George, father of Cob George, and he taught me even more during this period, and we had a lot of fun. He lived in the old Granby Inn in Queen St. I also attended GranthamCollege on one day and two nights for the duration of the 5 year apprenticeship. Obtaining City and Guilds of London in Decorative Panting. My brother returned and until I emigrated we worked together until 1970.
During the mid 1950s I met and subsequently married in1961 my wife Elizabeth, (née Ronan). We first lived in Market St in the front section of what was later to become the Antique shop, and during this time we had four children, two being born while we lived at Market St, the other two after we moved to North Crescent. The two eldest both attended the old Primary School, and, ironically also had Miss Walker for their first teacher.
It was during this time my wife Liz and several other concerned and forward thinking mothers decided to start a Pre-School Playgroup. And after a lot of hard work from the usual few husbands as well, they managed to start in the Village Hall. The Committee of the Village Hall took quite some time to convince that it was not going to be a dumping ground for children, so when we finally got the permission we gave the tired old VC Hall a quick makeover painting and a general tidying, much to the amazement of the committee and the village. And the rest is history, forty years plus on, the Pre-School Playgroup is still going strong and doing a wonderful job. Who from this era would forget the regular dances in the V.C. Hall. With Ron Diggins and his “Diggola”, Bottesford’s first Disco! And the money raised all went back to keeping this wonderful concept alive.
In closing I would like to make mention of my Mother Vera Bradshaw, who had to fill what must have been a terrible period in her life, losing the company of four of her much loved grand children when we decided to emmigrate to Australia in 1970. She then took on the behind the scenes jobs of making food and drinks for the multitude of children that passed through her and other’s devoted care. And all those early children still will always remember her as “Nanny Bradshaw.”
In 1982 our four children with no help from us saved sufficient money from their wages to give their two Grandmothers the holiday of a lifetime in Australia, it was their way of replacing some of their loss of all those years.
Thank you Bottesford for giving my family and I the early start, and the continuing good fortune to say how proud we are of our children, and now our eight grand children. And hopefully in the not to distant future we may one day return home for another bite at the cherry.
Michael & Elizabeth Bradshaw & Family