Prior to the 1900s, many residents would have travelled by foot, bicycle or horse and the wealthier by horse and carriage. Travel would have been very limited and the roads extremely quiet.
National statistics suggest that at the beginning of the 20th Century there were only about 8,000 cars in the whole of Britain. This compares to 28.4 million by the end of 2008. There was a gradual rise in car ownership in the 1920s but it was relatively expensive.
The one and only garage in Tollerton was established by Frank Muir who had been a coachman and then chauffeur for the Burnsides at Tollerton Hall. In Dorothy Singleton’s talk to the Friendship Club in 1991 she recalled that the garage business initially started “on the old road at Plumtree but when Albert Ball 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“, which is where the garage is still located.
Mrs Singleton said that Frank’s wife had told her that her husband had dug out the pits himself for the petrol tanks. He would not have been a young man either – just a tough Scot!
As more people acquired cars, the garage prospered. In November 1933, planning permission was sought for a garage showroom extension and later in November 1949, when Frank’s son (David) had joined the business, the garage was further extended. At some stage, Maisie Don, formerly of Tollerton Lane was Frank Muir’s secretary. It was said in a local publication, ‘Tollerton and the New Elizabethan Age’ that “the original plans for the garage demanded a thatched roof, but this idea was abandoned as impractical, and the only surviving thatch was on the dainty clock that graced the forecourt.” By the 30s, Tollerton had attracted many more residents to the newly built properties, some of whom would have had a car and wanted to live further away from the city and their work.
Even in the 1940s there would have been relatively few cars. As the late Jim Blackburn of Tollerton stated in his WW2 memories, “There was only the occasional Austin 7 or bull-nosed Morris to worry about. Very few people could get petrol anyway“. Interesting that he mentioned Austin cars as another former resident, Mike Connelly, recalls that immediately after the war a man who lived on Tollerton Lane bought an Austin A12 or A16 and occasionally gave him a lift home from West Bridgford where he attended school. An Austin car was clearly the thing to have!
Mike also remembers as a boy in the 40s going down to Hall Farm to watch the threshing of the corn and seeing a very old car, similar to a bull nosed Morris, in a barn there. He reckons it must have been acquired by Mr Brown at the farm sometime between 1915 and 1925 and the insects had made many tiny holes in the leather seats.
In a village publication relating to WW2, it stated that private motorists were initially allowed enough petrol for 120 miles a month and that essential users were given special allowances. There were only two grades of petrol produced – ‘pool’ and ‘commercial’; the latter had a dye added so any private motorist found with this in their tank was in deep trouble! The rationing of petrol intensified as the war progressed and by 1942 only essential users were allowed to run cars and even then they were severely limited in their use.
Peter Brooker, a Tollerton resident, can remember Muir’s garage looking just like the previous picture and buying petrol here in 1961 when he first started driving. It was then £1 for 4 gallons! He also suggests the garage looked much like this until the early 1970s when the business was sold to David Rees.
The garage was taken over in 1983 by J.F. Hopewell Ltd and provided car servicing, valeting, petrol and an outlet for new Austin Rover cars. The garage was frequently referred to as ‘Lane End Garage’. Originally Hopewell’s was founded by Jack Hopewell in 1948 and was based at West Bridgford but later moved to Tollerton. It was run by Jack’s son John Hopewell and his two children – Phillip and Vicki Hopewell. Between 1985 and 1989, Barbara Storrie of Tollerton worked for the Hopewells in the car showroom and took part in the launch of many of the new Rover models.
The following image shows the garage where repairs were carried out on the far right and the car showroom to the left of this. Sadly, with the demise of Rover and the redevelopment of the site by Total, the Hopewells’ stay at Tollerton came to an end in the late 1990s, though they did relocate to Station Road, Plumtree for a few years. In more recent years it has become just a petrol station with no car repair or sales facilities.
With an increase in car ownership came new and improved roads. Prior to 1931 the old Melton Road passed through the villages of Plumtree and Normanton-on-the-Wolds and was an important route as the main road from Nottingham to London. The new Melton Road (A606) was built and opened to traffic in 1931. This road forms the boundary between Tollerton and Plumtree.
The Gamston Lings Bar Road (part of A52) as we know it now was opened in September 1981. This two mile section of the A52 cost £6 million to build. Meanwhile, Tollerton Lane was widened either side of its junction with Cotgrave Lane in the mid 1960s.
Many residents would have been totally dependent on the buses to get to work and school, to go shopping and to seek entertainment in Nottingham city. There were designated bus stops but bus drivers would often pick up passengers or set them down along the route particularly in rural areas.
This practice continued for some residents well in to the 1980s. Yvonne Burbanks remembers her neighbour on Cotgrave Road, Connie Jackson, waiting at the top of her driveway and hailing the bus with a wave of her walking stick. She was then (1985) in her early 90s and would always be picked up outside her house and dropped off at the same place upon her return from Nottingham.
These short concrete posts were unique to the local bus operator, Barton Transport, and this one would have been where some pupils attending St Hugh’s College caught the bus at the end of the school day.
Dorothy Singleton, former Tollerton resident, remembered that a “workman’s return fare was 7d. 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“. Iris Stirland, another former Tollerton resident, also recalls the fare being 7d in 1940 and the fact that a permit was needed for peak time travel. She also mentions in her wartime memories that buses were “few and far between“. Another former resident remembers seeing a Barton bus with a gas filled balloon on the roof during WW2 when there was an acute fuel shortage and mentions Nottingham Corporation buses in the town towing trailers behind them filled with gas during those war years.
From the 40s through to the 60s, buses went along Cotgrave Road, on to Melton Road and then turned right down Tollerton Lane and through the village. This was tremendously convenient for those who shopped at the Co-op on the corner of Melton Road and Tollerton Lane. Bill Stevenson who lived on Cotgrave Road until the early 1950s, believes that a local bus service was run by Lewis’s of Cotgrave until about 1944 when Barton Transport took over this route. Alfred Lewis of Cotgrave certainly had a carrier service in the early 1900s and later had a small fleet of small, single decker buses in this area.
No exact date can be attributed to this photograph but clearly the road was far less busy then as there are hardly any cars to be seen!
The weather sometimes disrupted the bus services and people would have no other option but to walk. In March 1947 there was very heavy snow in Tollerton and other areas of Nottinghamshire; reports suggest that snow lay on the ground for a staggering 38 days. A rapid thaw triggered severe flooding particularly in West Bridgford and Wilford and this halted most bus services.
Records suggest that these were the most catastrophic river floods in Nottingham for at least 200 years.
In a village publication entitled ‘Tollerton and the New Elizabethan Age’ there is an account of how one young woman coped in those floods.
“The bus took three hours to reach her place of work – Boots on London Road. Her boss immediately told his staff to go home as by that time Trent Bridge had been closed because of the rising water. She was fortunate enough to find out that a train was to leave for Ruddington, so she scampered down to the Midland Station. From there she walked home, alone in the cold and dark, and got home at 8 o’clock to a telling off from her worried mother.”
Floods at Melton Road, Edwalton in March 1947
Irrespective of the weather some residents would always walk or cycle long distances to work. Bill Stevenson remembers how his father was made redundant at the airport in Tollerton and then secured a job at Rolls Royce at Watnall in 1946. Every day he would cycle to Nottingham from Tollerton and then catch a bus to Watnall and did this journey through to 1962 when he eventually moved to Watnall.
Of course cycling to work and school was another option for many residents. Olive Smith of Cotgrave Road cycled every day to school at Plumtree in the 1930s but in those days the local roads were very safe for cyclists. In a Nottingham Post article (November 2012) Lorna Torr (nee Caunt), a former Tollerton resident who came to live in Tollerton around 1931, recalled “Every day, from the age of six, I used to walk to Plumtree School, which was a good two mile walk there and back. I used to walk half a mile on my own and then I’d meet a girl and her two brothers to go the rest of the way“.
In the late 1950s Barbara Storrie (nee Blackburn), who lived at Hall Farm, recalls catching the bus on Tollerton Lane to go to Plumtree School. She got off the bus near the Post Office in Plumtree and called in there each day to buy a crusty bread roll which she then kept in her school desk and ate during the day.
The photograph below shows the Melton Road in March 1966 at about 6.00pm and there is a distinct lack of traffic except for the lone Vauxhall estate car! Nowadays there is a constant stream of traffic in both directions along the Melton Road.
This previous photograph also reminds us that there was once a thriving railway station at Plumtree that opened around 1878. This picture shows the Leeds to St Pancras train passing over the bridge at Melton Road in 1966, which would have been just before the closure of this line to express trains to and from London. Originally, the line was part of the Midland Railway route between Nottingham and Melton Mowbray and, at one stage, there were eleven trains each way to Nottingham or London each week day and one each way on a Sunday. The line provided local and regular rail transport for passengers between the local villages up until 1949, a year after the railways were nationalised, and also carried many goods trains. It is suggested that drinking water was delivered by train to Plumtree Station in the 1940s.
There was also a railway station at Edwalton which is said to have given rise to the building of many large properties at Edwalton for wealthy Nottingham residents who wished to live close to the city but away from the large industrialised town. This station opened to passengers in 1880 and closed for passengers in 1941.
After 1949 Plumtree Station was only used for occasional excursions and the last time it was used by passengers was in 1959 when two excursion trains went to Skegness and Mablethorpe. Despite this part of the line between the former Asfordby Mine, near Melton Mowbray and Edwalton was maintained as an experimental test track and was electrified in 2000 when it was used as a testing facility for West Coast Main Line Trains. Very occasionally one can still see a test train passing over the Melton Road bridge at Tollerton.
For many years, this low bridge has become an obstacle for many high sided vehicles, causing the road to be closed to all traffic for hours. The creation of turning points, before and after the bridge, and the addition of height restriction signs have reduced the number of incidents but there are still numerous near scrapes!