Dorothy Singleton’s memories were presented to the Tollerton Friendship Club on 5 September, 1991. Dorothy lived on Melton Road but we are unsure of when she moved to Tollerton; she died in Tollerton in 1993. Dorothy was born in Bradford, Yorks in 1905 – her parents were Percival Walker Singleton and Jane Louisa Singleton (both born in Bradford). The family moved to West Bridgford prior to 1911 and came to Tollerton prior to WW2.
We do not know when she wrote these memories as the request to share these at the Friendship Club came in after another speaker pulled out at the last minute – could have been that she had already written these prior to 1991 and that’s why she could fill in at short notice. She never married and, as far as can be determined, she worked for the family firm – Walker Singleton – an independent firm of Chartered Surveyors and commercial property consultants.
Tollerton has changed greatly since my family came to live in Tollerton before the last world war. We lived on Melton Road, where in those days there was a lovely view over fields both at the back and front of the house and from my bedroom I could see St Andrews Church and the Council House to the North West, and a beautiful view of Hoe Hill on the North East
At the side of the house was the Farm Track, which was later closed and replaced by Bentinck Avenue, Our milk was delivered warm, twice a day, from the Farm. Brooker’s horses ate our broad beans we had planted too near the fence at the rear, and one of my terrier dogs dug a hole under the fencing and reciprocated by killing their chickens.
Tollerton was a village much as it must have been during the last century, except that there were a few houses straggling along the Melton Road contributing to the much condemned Ribbon Development, and Lenton Avenue had the odd house or two hear to the Melton Road end.
The site of the traffic island was then known as the Toll Bar, or Ling’s Bar, and there used to be a little house at the corner of Landmere Lane where a toll was collected many years ago. During the winter of 1947 when we had a lot of snow and high winds, road sweepers were employed to keep the road open as there were drifts of snow at least ten feet high on the Tollerton side of the road.
The bus stopped just where one happened to put out one’s hand, and the workmen’s return fare was 7d. If I missed the twenty to nine bus, it was a two hour wait for the next one, so one soon learnt to be early, especially in winter. I have walked to Valley Road more than once across the fields. The ordinary fare was 8d return and, if a regular customer, the conductor batted his eye as to whether the ticket return was in or out of Nottingham.
Houses were in course of erection on Tollerton Lane, but there was no footpath, in fact it was through the efforts of the Womens’s Institute that a footpath or pavement was made for the safety and protection of the children going to Plumtree School, but this was not completed until after the War.
Just before the War, building commenced on Medina Drive by Gilbert & Hall. It was first known as Honeymoon Lane and the Nursery Avenue, for obvious reasons, but it has now reverted to its proper name, although I do not suppose its use has changed completely.
My first visit to the Rectory Room was to an event, I believe, to celebrate the Coronation of King George VI. We had a fabulous meal, like a Harvest Supper, followed by dancing and games in the Ballroom at Tollerton Hall, which was then a Congregational Training College. After the death of Mrs. Burnside, the widow of the Squire, the Hall was used as a Country Club. There were four hard Tennis Courts and a Squash Pavilion and Court, and lots of garages, but I did not see inside the Hall at this period. The Club was, I believe, raided once or twice by the Police, and then closed, and it was later taken over by the Congregationalists and known as Paton College.
The Rectory Room really looked like what it was, a barn, (The Rector in the old days was a farmer in his spare time). There was a floor laid so that the room could be used for games and other functions but the pantiles were visible and also the beams. It had a temperamental boiler at the end and also a billiard table. However money was raised and a false ceiling put up and the place made olde worlde, under the auspices of the late Mr. Holroyd, who lived in one of those nice bungalows opposite the Church.
The Men’s Club held their Meetings in the Rectory Room every Monday evening, and the Women’s Institute, of which I was a member, met monthly on Wednesday evenings, and we had a Hop on Saturday nights, the highlight of the week. Mr. Leader, who lived in Tollerton Lane, operated the radiogramme and loud speaker, and Miss Gilbey (a teacher from the Munro’s School of Dancing,) trained us to trip the light fantastic. We also formed a Tennis Club, of which I was secretary and a founder member. We used two of the Hard Courts at Paton College and the Sadler’s cottage for our Club Room where we had delicious teas. It was all most enjoyable. The people from the village looked upon us with suspect, as is usual, when newcomers invade a place, and we were “those from the Melton Road end” but at the Women’s Institute, all seemed very united.
The Church was poorly attended, one was usually one of the faithful six at communion, and the only time there was anything like a congregation was at Church Festivals and Garden Fetes. Or of course there were not a lot of people in Tollerton in those days.
The late Frank Muir was at the time of the Burnsides, their coachman and later chauffeur, and Mrs. Frank Muir, used to tell me that the household staff had to attend Church on Sundays, the Burnside’s provided the Sunday Best in which to attend, but this was black. It must have appeared a mournful occasion. Also the Squire sat in his Gallery, where the organ now is, so good behaviour was the order of the day. After Mrs. Burnside died, Frank Muir started a Garage business on the old road at Plumtree, but when Albert Ball (the Father of Capt. Ball V. C. our local hero) bought the Tollerton Estate, and there was a Bye Pass to be constructed, he suggested Mr. Muir bought the site at the corner of Tollerton Lane. Mrs. Muir told me her husband himself dug the pits for the Petrol Tanks, and he was not a young man either – just a tough Scot.
There was no sewerage system (there wasn’t when we came to Tollerton), there was no electricity even when the Muir’s arrived, but land was then only about 6d a yard! After War broke out, a Mrs. Gibb, who also lived on Tollerton Lane, (affectionately known as “Gibby”,) who was a member of the W.V.S. got together a number of willing helpers to run a W.V.S. Canteen at the Rectory Room. At this time the Rectory Room had no water laid on, we got our electricity from the Rectory, and there was an old gas stove at the billiard table end of the room. Our first influx of troops was a thousand men of the Lincolnshire Regiment who camped in the Park at Tollerton Hall, the Hall by this time having been requisitioned by the Army. We had a rota of helpers, who were made members of the W.V.S. and we were open seven days a week. We had to fetch all our water from the Rectory, and we washed up in bowls on chairs, the whist tables being used by the troops, and at week-ends, by their families in between boiling water, making tea, and sandwiches, we heated milk for babies bottles and generally did any job that came to hand to make things a bit more comfortable for the large number of people we entertained.
By this time, we had a National Savings Group, which was run by Mr. Leader and a Red Cross 1d per week collection run by Mrs. Wilson the then Rector’s wife. I might say, we collected monthly, and did them both at the same time. You have no idea how long the driveways are in Tolllerton or how many trees and shrubs overhang the gates; I always think of the postman in wet weather.
After the Lincolns, we had the 7th Bn Sherwood Foresters, and they stayed with us for many months. By this time, out of our profit (and we did make a profit on 2d cups of tea) and sandwiches and cakes, we had an Annex built on to the Rectory Room and brought water up the driveway, and installed a toilet. The men still camped in the Park, although by now it was very cold, and we had to thaw the tap with a lighted candle before we could get any water. It became the practice to leave the urn full of water at night when we left, so that we could get a light under it as soon as possible to melt the ice and get water boiling for the hundreds of cups of tea we served every night and Saturday and Sunday afternoons and evenings. We still had our Hops on Saturday nights, and these were enjoyed by everybody, troops included. I think I heard more life stories whilst I was in that Canteen than have been written about – and some were incredible, and some were very sad.
We heard the aeroplanes going over from Newton, which was a Bomber Station, and said a silent prayer that they might be returned to us safely. The gun fire used to rattle the doors of the canteen and we had to walk home at night, willy nilly. In the summer, we could see the Bombers in formation going out on their raids, and I have seen odd ones limping home belching with smoke.
Tollerton was a decoy, and when Nottingham was raided in 1941, we got our share of bombs, fortunately for us, in the field but not so fortunately for West Bridgford nearby, who got theirs on the houses.
The Foresters stayed with us until the December of 1942, when they went to North Africa. During this period, we had the R.A.F. billeted upon us, but before this, we had evacuees. Mostly they came from Sheffield Brightside, which is a slum, and some of the stories I have heard made one’s hair stand on end, truly, we who are fortunate have no idea how some people have to live. We also had a few evacuees from Yarmouth way, and the Leaders had two little girls of whom they became very fond, as they had no children of their own, and after these girls married, I know they had until Mr. & Mrs. Leader died, close contact with one of them.
During this time of course, our men folk had and were leaving us to join the Army Navy or the Air force, and our memorial in the Village bears a record of our losses. We had our Home Guard (not quite like Dad’s Army) and our Firewatchers like most places. It is very sad to think that something as terrible as a War seemed necessary to unite a village closely, and make all ever ready to serve others with kindness and cheerfulness. At this time, the late Mr. Grist who also lived on Tollerton Lane, formed a Scout Group here, one of the Lads was a Scouter but then serving with Sherwood Foresters took the Troop Meetings in Mr. Grist’s garage. Tollerton was then in the West Bridgford Association.
After the Foresters, we had the Royal Engineers for a short time, but they were soon moved to make room for an absolute takeover by American Paratroopers. We, by this time, on strict rations for both food and clothing, lived very frugally, but as everyone was in the same boat so to speak, no one complained. The Americans seemed to live in the lap of luxury, even under canvas. They had more uniforms and medal ribbons than one is ever likely to see in the British Army, and whereas all our young men were “lean”, they seemed to carry a lot of puppy fat, or were, to say the least of it, well rounded. Until we explained the position, they would ask to buy a number of cakes, and would leave those they had half eaten (incidentally, the ration was 2). In the Canteen they were very polite, a white overall an a W.V.S. badge worked wonders. We were addressed as “Ma-am” which we were told was a sign of great respect – it made me feel so ancient, and when one of them told me I was like his Aunt – well I ask you- and I wasn’t so old then.
Except that these boys spoke their kind of English, they were as foreign as anyone could imagine. With exceptions, it was “Live for today, for tomorrow we die”, and they were a long way from home and all the things that home does to a person. Farmer Brown, instead of walking around the park, looking as a picturesque figure with his Shepherd’s Crook, inspecting his flock and animals in the late evening sun, was now walking around his barns clearing out intruders and seeing the barns were not set on fire by cigarette ends carelessly thrown around. Even the churchyard was not sacred. I remember telling a few of them one night about the lady that was drowned in the Lake and walked around as a ghost. That shook them a bit as they believed it then any-way.
The bus conductresses let her regular passengers on the bus before allowing the Camp Followers to set foot thereon. The Americans had a lot of money, they were inveterate gamblers, and they had a big following. There were some very nice boys though amongst these young men, and they had a terrible job before them. SUDDENLY, one day, there was no-one there, and I believe they had numbered about 2000. I am not certain now, it is a long time ago, but it was either 400 or 900 that came back (I believe is was 400) about a fortnight later after being sent to France. It was after our boys went in, about the time the Canadians were having a tough time at Caen. One of the boys brought back a huge Nazi flag, which he proudly displayed, and told us the Germans knew exactly where they were in Tollerton.
After the Americans departed, we had a few Bomb Disposal men, and then the Camp was turned into a Prison of War Camp, guarded by Poles – not a very happy choice in all the circumstances. The W.V.S. Canteen continued until quite a time after the War ended, with practically the same Staff as we had in the beginning. The German prisoners of war decorated our Church before the last decoration, in Mr. Shaw’s time. Tollerton Hall was sold to the Roman Catholics, as Paton College then had residence in Nottingham. Although Mr. Wilson, the then Rector badly wanted a new Rectory, in spite of the fact that the Rectory is an Elizabethen house it is cold and needed a lot of money spending on it, but he just would not move as he said, if he did “it would go over to Rome and they had the Hall already”. He has since died, and Mr. Shaw a then retired Headmaster took Holy Orders and followed him as Rector of Tollerton. Then there was Mr. John, who was with us such a short time, and after that Mr. Finney who stayed a long time, and who had a warm place in our hearts, and who worked for the unity with the Methodist Church. Then we had Mr. Ogley, who had a new Rectory at last. Now we have Mr. Lumgaire. In connection with the Methodist Church, I remember Mrs. Walker who used to live down the road next to the bungalow having a Methodist Sunday School every Sunday in her Dining Room.
By now, South East Notts Boys Scouts Association came into being, being a split of the West Bridgford Association, and it is or was the largest rural area in the country. Mr. Grist became our first D.C. He was an excellent D.C, as he was indeed an excellent businessman. He became the Managing Director of Singers the Sewing Machine people at their London Headquarters. He was marvelous at delegating jobs, and even more marvelous at seeing that the jobs he delegated got done, whilst ever ready to lend a hand or give advice or transport.
By this time, the Canteen had finished and Mr. Grist persuaded me to become ADC Cubs, which office I was privileged to hold for 22 years, and in the meantime Guide Company and Brownies were started in Tollerton, Mrs. Stirland being Brown Owl for 31 years.
Our first Dr. here was Dr. Russell who had a Surgery in the house where our District Nurse used to live, next door to the Charde, which was formerly the Co-op. He was then joined by Dr. Stevenson, who when his house and surgery were completed went to live at the corner of Bentinck until Keyworth Health Centre was formed. How we all wish we had a surgery at Tollerton now instead of having to go to Keyworth if we are not fortunate enough to have a car.
During the War, the late Mr. Anderson used to have the shop now owned by the Charde, and I must put it on record how fairly he dealt with the rations. The late Farmer Brooker served on the Parish Council and was its Clerk, to be followed by his son Albert whom most of us know, and I see Pat (Albert’s daughter-in Law) is keeping up the family tradition. The Post Office Shop was formerly owned by the Halls, but before that Mr Redgate sold a few cakes and bits and bobs. Most of the trade in those days was done at the Andersen’s who took over from some people named Bellamy. There was a butcher’s shop next door which is now part of the Charde. Now,to bring Tollerton up to date. There are lots of houses in Tollerton and the land on which they are built is no longer 6d a yard, but we do get our dustbins emptied more than once a quarter. We are sewered, except some of us are having trouble in this direction. We also have street lights, the Methodist Hall, more shops (although still not a chemist) and a Pub and a School. There is a Tollerton Neighbourhood Scheme, there are Area Wardens, and I have cause to be immensely grateful to the Warden in our area when I was incapacitated with a slipped disc some time ago, and also to my good neighbours. It is nice to see so many young people about and so many children, and to see the unity of the Churches.
Yes, times have changed, but people do not change really – we have our sad times and our glad times, our family sorrows and joys – the warmth of friendship, and so many more opportunities, and I hope I for one, will always be able to call Tollerton “Home”.