Reflections on Silver Jubilee

Taken from the Silver Jubilee supplement that went out with the June 2002 Newsletter and written by Hilary Heason after eavesdropping on Peggy Heason, Gwen Barnes, John Booth, Jean Read, Jim and Joyce Blackburn and Pat Brooker on their ‘reminiscences’’ teaparty. A wonderful look back on Tollerton’s past.

In 1952, the country was still recovering from the war with its rationing and raw memories. Sweets were rationed as well as meat and even bread was limited.

The men worked, either on the land or in the town, for modest wages under demanding conditions. A young professional man could expect to bring home £250-£300 a year while a farm hand would be thankful for two pounds a week. Young women worked, in offices, factories or as nurses and teachers but their wages were much less than their male counterparts. The busfare into Nottingham was 1 shilling [5p], provided the bus left before 9am.

In Tollerton, the inhabitants thought they were going up in the world as they had mains drains (no pan closets for the Friday night soil man to empty).

Car ownership was not unusual – a secondhand Morris 10 could be purchased for £60 and petrol was obtainable from Muir’s Garage at half a crown a gallon [12 and a half pence today]. The garage, then as now at the corner of Tollerton Lane, was run by Frank Muir, assisted by his secretary Miss Don and his foul dog Capper. When the land behind the garage – land which frequently flooded – the residential area built upon it was named appropriately Muir Avenue, Stella Avenue (named after his wife) and Orchard Close.

After the war there was a seven year ban on ordinary house building because of shortages of materials. The Bentinck Avenue homes were built in 1952 and were extremely spartan and equipped in a spirit of postwar austerity. Woollen rugs added warmth and comfort but fitted carpets were an unthinkable indulgence, as was central heating. All homes had open fires, fuelled with coal and boilers fuelled with coke that heated water for the weekly bath.

Tollerton was truly rural – isolated in many ways. The nation’s food supply was still a sensitive issue and we valued our farms and farmers much more realistically then. Our first combine harvester was still four years in the future and the men built stooks in the fields at harvest time and shot rabbits for the pot. Eighty rabbits in a day was the local record.

Milk was delivered twice a day because the absence of fridges made it hard to keep it fresh. The Co-op (where the Charde is now) delivered daily and, for about a pound a person, per week, the average family could live very well indeed.

Mr Foster, the butcher from Plumtree, brought his wares in a pony and trap. Mr Creed was the travelling greengrocer. Jim Blackburn or Albert Brooker, assisted by Mary the Milk, delivered thick, creamy milk with the gold top and the Horspool’s van could arrive anytime of the day or night with their fresh, crusty bread.

The early days of the TV dinner coincided with the early days of TV and many families bought one for the first time to watch the Coronation. These sturdy lumps of furniture hosted a nine or ten inch, black and white screen that crackled into life from 5 to 6 each day, shut down until seven thirty (to make sure the children were put to bed properly and dinner served at the table) when the evening’s viewing began.

The massive chestnut trees at the Blackburn’s farm [Brown’s farm in 1952] played host to village events too, including one of the two Coronation parties. The Home Farm party was distinguished by the presence of two tents – well separated – for the children. One group were recovering from whooping cough, the other group did their best to avoid it!

Albert Brooker brought a van containing supplies of the Coronation mugs for the children. He did sterling work that day. He shuttled to the other party too, as they huddled in Brooker’s Barn. Driven indoors by the relentless drizzle of the day, the residents of the Burnside end of the village toasted the new Queen’s health in a cloud of sausage-scented smoke.

Blackburn’s farm was host to a WI triumph, when they managed to get the Council to build a bus shelter on land given by the farmer for the safety of local children.

Swing into Shape was born out of huddle of women, lead by Peggy Heason, around the boiler in the Rectory Rooms. Always ahead of its time, Swing devotees had to be sure to be out of the building by 9pm, or risk the wrath of the Scottish dancers.

The cricket club proudly built their hut by the river on Sam Gadd’s field and played on the bumpy land, reputed to be a Saxon burial site, that put a spin on the ball that could have won us the Ashes. We had tennis and archery too in this busy little community.

The semi-detached homes on Medina Drive were sold for £525 in 1938 while a detached Crane-built house on Bentinck Avenue fetched £1,920. But the roads were not as we know them now, not by any means. Burnside Grove was a cart track. Brooker’s farm had an electric fence which caused enormous excitement among the local children who were convinced it was potentially lethal. In fact this mild little device was a compassionate alternative to dangerous – but cheap – barbed wire.

Lenton, Bentinck and Stanstead Avenues petered out before they connected with what was eventually known as the ‘new’ road. They were unadopted and the residents of Bentinck remember walking down to the Melton Road bus stop in their wellies, changing their shoes at the Post Office (leaving their wellies there for the teatime change) and going into town in elegant court shoes.

The avenues were made of mud and the ashes of the residents’ fires, thrown onto them daily in a bid to mend the potholes and dry the swamp. Every spring there were community weeding parties to rid the Avenues of their greenery. Residents always took care of their territory – Priory Avenue was always a little uppercrust, and Bentinck Avenue even had a gate across the road. Now there’s posh.

The residents were allowed to purchase the road, from their frontage to the centre of the road, for £3 a foot. After that the roads were considered to be ‘adopted’ and were maintained by the local bureaucracy – Bingham Rural District Council. Rates averaged about £8 per half year and rates 12/6d [62.5p].

Tollerton Lane was blessed with a particularly vicious humpback bridge, near Gamston, past the aerodrome where elderly aircraft were lovingly restored at Truman Aviation and Field Aircraft Services. The Flying Club was the only licensed establishment in the Parish at that time. Few of the village’s lanes and avenues had street lighting in the 50s, although Sir Albert Ball had attractive lamps put where they looked best – for example at Lenton Circus. These were replaced in 1964 when conventional streetlighting made an appearance.

The Trent was an active river and the Meadows and other areas were built on its floodplains. Floods were routine when heavy winter snows melted or dramatic rainfall caused the rivers’ levels to rise.

Tollerton, in common with the rest of the country was subject to the horrible fogs known as pea-soupers. Getting home from the city was not easy. But in those days, it was accepted as a normal part of life. Smog was nasty but, on the other hand, there was virtually no crime, no spitefulness and precious little greed. Life in Tollerton in the 50s was peaceful and muddy and very, very English.

I hope you enjoyed a ‘travel back to the 50s’. We also have some photos that were taken at the Silver Jubilee Celebrations that are on the next article.