Friday, 21 February 2014

A Bulwell visit

On Wednesday, I went to Bulwell, on the north-west side of Nottingham. It was my first visit in eighteen months and I took my camera with me. My visit was prompted by a meeting with the person organising the history bus outing I mentioned in a previous blog on 1 February 2014.

I now have a time and a date — 11am for Saturday 24 May 2014, when I will lead a history bus tour on the 35 bus scheduled to leave Bulwell Bus Station at 11.27am. The trip will end at Nottingham Central Library on Angel Row in Nottingham City Centre. There will be spin-offs: a leaflet, walks, a 'reminscence map' inspired by a Manhatten 'mapping' website and, possibly, a display of sorts.

I am hoping we will have two folk with us throughout the journey talking in old English, speaking place names as they may have been spoken in 1086, at about the time William the Conquerer's Domesday Book was being compiled (other titles have included 'The Great Survey' and 'The Great Description of England' to name just two, but the title we know it best by is Domesday Book). The 35 passes through a string of pre-Conquest communities, some recorded for the first time in 1086 (there may be earlier references to these places yet to be unearthed by some diligent researcher in the bowels of an archive somewhere).

To hear these place names in Old English is to hear our forebears speak: Bul(e)uuelle; Hamessal; Straelie/Straleia; Bileburch/burg; Waletone/Ol(l)avestone; Lentone/tune and Snoting(e)ham/quin.

In addition, there are two 'lost' Lenton 'pre-Conquest' communities: Mortune and Sudtune/tone (now remembered as Sutton Passeys, the name having been revived in the 20th century). Nine of Nottingham's fifteen pre-Conquest communities are on the 35 route. No other Nottingham bus route comes close to claiming the title 'Heritage Bus Route'.

My visit to Bulwell was made (of course) on a 35 bus, which stops a hundred yards or so away from where I live in Lenton. It really is a journey of contrasts and, as urban bus routes go, epic — nearly an hour in length, with a few hundred yards of countryside and little glimpses of Nottingham's rich heritage here and there, providing you know what you are looking for. Over the coming weeks I will be exploring the route more closely than I have ever done before, For my meeting on Wednesday, I hastily created a blog page charting the route of the 35. Before long the page be no more, subsumed I hope into a new website which Susan is registering for me. So, to have a peek, click here. Some permissions have yet to be obtained, but given it's all for free, there should not be any problems.

On Wednesday I arrived early and for twenty-five minutes wandered up and down Main Street. Here is a selection;

Out of Bulwell Bus Station (which I did not photograph, but I will next time) and straight into Bulwell Market Place. Not the busiest of markets, but still going. Turning to the right...

...beyond the burger van, I took this photograph of Main Street.

At the other end of Main Street is the Mount Zion 7th Day Church of God. The sign also describes it as 'Bulwell Community Church'. I assume that the building was once home to another faith group. Tucked away to the left of the church is a modern building bearing the name 'Tesco Extra' — a temple to corporate capitalism in all its glory.

 Turning back, this was the view of Main Street towards Market Place and on the left is the Wetherspoon's William Peveril public house. This end of Main Street has empty shops and charity shops. One day I will find the time to do a blog about charity shops and how corporate charities are little different to their capitalist counterparts.

Outside the William Peveril pub is this sign. Whilst I was looking at it, a customer having a cigarette came over and said 'They've done a good job have Wetherspoons. They let me in and they won't allow any nonsense. They're good like that'.  He was the kind of man many would avoid, but had I had time I would have enjoyed a longer chat and bought him a pint.

Inside the William Peveril is this statue showing King Harold getting an arrow in his eye at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The English lost and William from Normandy became the new King of England — the last time we were conquered, but we had the last laugh insomuch as will still speak English and after nearly a thousand years we still take sides and it is never with the Normans!

Just off Market Place is this grim looking alley. It is probably the most unwelcoming entrance to a 'shopping experience' I have ever seen. Sorry Bulwell!  I know you have little control over your own destiny and where what little money there is gets spent, but it would cost nothing for someone to take the wheelie bin in.

And this is what is at the bottom of the alley, two 'Tudor courts' like this. Run down and tired looking despite the fact that they appear to have been built quite recently. In a better off location these retail units would be full of boutiques and 'kupcake' shops.

Outside the other end of 'Tudor Court' there is this clock tower. If I tell you that I took this photograph at 10.50am, then you will realise the clock does not tell the right time. Why did they bother? Money is spent trying to improve the area and great play is made of how great the development is going to be, then once it is open, next to no money is spent on maintenance and the rents set so high that no one can afford to open shops, or if they do, they soon close. Turn 180° and look down a pedestrian underpass under Bulwell High Road and you get a glimpse of this...

...Strelley House, which dates from 1667 and was once a charity school. Behind it somewhere is a dovecote. This is hidden history of the kind the 35 bus history day is all about.

Turning back, I headed into the Market Place again and took this photograph of Bulwell's parish church in the distance, with a side view of  Bulwell Town Hall to the right. Both built on high ground to avoid flooding.

'Flooding?' you ask. Yes, from the River Leen (the same river which flows through Lenton and gives it its name). This view looking north is where it is the Leen disappears for a while, behind shops and under car parks.

Turn 180° and you have a view of the Bulwell Bogs. With a name like that you can imagine the rest for yourself. I have seen this part of the Leen when the water is so high that the water level has nearly reached the road. Admittedly, that was over thirty years ago and flood alleviation work have been carried out since then, but when full to the brim and flowing fast, it is still quite a sight.

By coincidence, all this talk of water brings me to my penultimate photograph, for inside this shop is the well which some say gives Bulwell its name*. It's a lovely story, so well told to me by the shop's owner, Robert Reader, that he has agreed to talk to those coming on the 35 bus ride on 24 May — hence the 11am start, so that those who come along can visit this wonderful cornucopia of household wares and hear something of the well and the shop's long history from Robert. Meeting him and then spending time with Juliet from Bulwell's TravelRight Project made my day.

Bulwell, for all you see, is home to a community not easily cowed. Bulwell has the distinction of electing John Peck, England's last Communist councillor and I was there, on the night, to see it happen and, like a good few other Labour Party members present, I cheered. When the Communist Party fell apart after the collapse of the Soviet Union, he joined the Green Party. John died in 2004, but is not forgotten.

You cannot be a socialist and not have a soft spot for Bulwell.

I left the same way I came. By bus. This time on a 68, which runs a more direct route to Nottingham City Centre than the 35. It was waiting for me outside Bulwell Market Place, just a few yards from the bus station. The name of this bus stop is 'Bulwell Market' — back in 1960 it as also the name of the railway station (and present-day tram stop) we no know as 'Bulwell'.

NOTE: * Local historian Geoffrey Oldfield in his wonderful book, The Illustrated History of Nottingham's Suburbs, begins his entry for Bulwell by saying 'The derivation of the name (Bulwell), according to local legend, is that it was a spring or well, which was started by a bull whose horn struck a large rock from which water flowed. The more prosaic explantion by place name experts is that the first part is an Anglo-Saxon personal name'.

Put this with Robert Reader's tale and then use a visit to his little hardware shop  to kick off our journey into history on a 35 suggests we have the makings of a great day if the rest can be as good! 

Thursday, 20 February 2014

A quickie post — unbelievable!

A photograph which says more than any words can!

The gate has gone! Finally taken down by The Park Estate, some eleven years after they put  it up to block a historic right-of-way.

The photograph below has appeared in this blog on a few occasions. The photo on the left was taken in 1999, when The Park Estate first announced their intention to block the public-right-of-way between Lenton and Nottingham city centre at this point. The right-hand photographs shows the gate they installed in 2003, but did not begin locking until 2009.

Last year, a planning inspectorate hearing into the order issued by the City Council saying that Lenton Road through The Park Estate was a right-of-way, confirmed the Council's decision. Now, finally, the gate has gone.

Thanks to Gail for the top photograph. After all the posturing by some Park Estate residents it has ended with the Estate removing their gate without any fuss. Quite unbelievable. Is this really the end of the affair?

We shall have to wait and see!

Saturday, 15 February 2014

A Lenton walk in the gloom

A few days ago I made a quick mid-afternoon dash to Dunkirk Post Office by bus, but decided to walk back, despite the fact it was gloomy and overcast, with the lunchtime news saying heavy rain was on its way.  It's a short walk I have done countless times over the years we have lived in Lenton, but every time I now do something like this I wonder if it will be the last, given our house is up for sale and in three months we could be gone.

 I have to go to Dunkirk because this is Lenton's only remaining post office, which has to survive with both hands tied behind its back. It cannot issue car taxation disks and many Post Office services have been privatised.  I decided to walk back along Abbey Street to take a look at what was happening around the old Nazareth House site.

On the way, I passed the small Spar convenience shop at the Dunkirk Flyover end of Beeston Road. In recent years, a good few small 'corner' shops like this have disappeared, replaced by supermarket 'locals'. In Lenton, we now have three.

Then it was under the Flyover and along Abbey Street to Priory Street, past two pubs along the way and onto Nazareth Road. The mid-20th century extension to Nazareth House was demolished a good few years ago and replaced by a modern apartment block, but the house stood empty for many years, until finally renovated and turned into apartments.

Nazareth House had been a home for children and then elderly folk run by a Catholic order and a good few of the nuns who served there were buried in its grounds when they died. When the site was re-developed, some of the graves remained in situ and this small fenced area contains their remains.

There is a plaque listing the names of the twenty-seven nuns who died between 1902 and 2001 and who remain here. Steve Zaleski, Editor of the Lenton Times has written several articles about Nazareth House.

I moved on past what remains of the old Cluniac Lenton Priory and onto Gregory Street, where these houses have had to live with Tram works for the best part of a year. As yet no tracks have been laid and on one side of the road work has yet to start. The Tram operating company has said the new line between Nottingham Station and Chilwell will open on 14 December 2014. We shall see.

Turn the other way and you see this. It all looks a mess, but it may be that all the services and utilities under the road have been moved and within weeks work will be finished.

I then continued my walk home along the footpath I long ago named 'Leenside' because it follows an old course of the River Leen, the river which gives Lenton its name. I had it to myself and I like the sense of isolation it gives me, despite the proximity of housing on one side.

This is where the footpath meets the end of Grove Road once you have walked under the railway bridge. The higher bridge carries Abbeybridge road over the railway line. An inner-city corner of Lenton few see or notice.

Once under the railway bridge I turned left onto Hungerton Street, the east side of which has this rather handsome terrace, with the old Lenton Primary School in the distance and the tower of Lenton's Holy Trinity parish church peeking over the roof of the school. Over the years I have taken a good few photographs of the street, usually on sunny days, but, somehow, I like the winter feel of this photograph.

Then onto Lenton Boulevard, where I had previously spied this new tea and coffee shop, which I am unlikely to use, given that I am less than a couple of minutes from home. It had no customers, but I hope it does well. The light was fading fast as the rain clouds gathered again.

This is the long closed New Lenton Post Office — much as it looked when it closed five years ago. A bit of signage missing, but otherwise the same, decaying from the inside out if what you can see of the interior is anything to go by. No one seems to care or comment. The shop with the shutters down closed a good twenty years ago.

By the time I got to Lorna's Florists and Greengrocers, a few yards nearer home, it was well on the way to being dark and an eery blue light had enveloped Lenton Boulevard. A few steps later and I was home and as I put the kettle on to make a cup of tea, the heavens opened. A well timed walk across a small part of inner-city Lenton which I could illustrate with as many photographs again, but every step I now take in Lenton is counted, for my days here are coming to an end and I am beginning to feel the emotional impact physically. People say moving is one of the most stressful things you can do and they are right.

Thirty-five years here is half my life. I have a story about Lenton Recreation Ground waiting in the wings, just another couple of photographs to take...

Friday, 14 February 2014

Beeston Connections Bus Map changes and a bus demise

I have updated and made small layout changes to the Beeston Connections Bus Map, prompted by changes to YourBus route Y5, which from 16 February will run via Attenborough Lane instead of Bye-Pass Road on the west side of Beeston.

Also news that Nottingham City Transport's route 14 between Chilwell and Old Market Square will be withdrawn at the end of March 2014, less than six months after it was diverted along Derby Road instead of University Boulevard. This means there will be no NCT bus route between Beeston and the City Centre via University Boulevard, Abbey Street, Abbeybridge and Castle Boulevard for the first time in over eighty years. According to a report in today's Nottingham Post, NCT blame 'increased competition' for the decision to withdraw route 14.

I can understand why NCT have made this decision because of the way 'the market' works, but there is something crazy about the decision, given that NCT is over 80% owned by Nottingham City Council and subsidises other bus routes. This is a case of classic market short-termism. When the Tram starts running it will be so full  that many of us will choose to use buses along the University Boulevard, Abbey Street, Abbeybridge and Castle Boulevard corridor between Beeston and the City Centre and NCT will have thrown away eighty years of service for the sake of a few months losses and its rivals' tenacity will be amply rewarded.

Come 30 March, route 14 will disappear from my map. In the meantime, here is the latest version.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Looking forward to a special day out

I was quite humbled when before Christmas I was asked by Bulwell's Ridewise project if I would like to do 'a history talk on a bus'. Since then the idea has progressed to the point where it looks likely to happen, thanks to the generosity of Nottingham City Transport.

I suggested that we use NCT's 35 bus route and dug out a NCT bus map from the early-1980s which used to use a cartoon logo called 'Buster'. I was always fond of the little fellow and was sorry when he disappeared from view. With luck and permission, I hope that he will have a role to play in Ridewise's 'History on a Bus' day.

Now this approach was pure serendipity, as I had already started work on my 'HistoryByBus' blog to coincide with my December column in the Nottingham Post, with a view to turning it into a proper website during 2014 (which I still intend to do).

Whether it will be used or not I do not know, but I have created this little logo and I have some other ideas as well, but what happens will depend on how many pennies Ridewise have, but some button badges for children on the the day would be nice.

I have a hand-written list of local history, including buildings, which can be linked to the 35 bus route and it has already reached sixty, with more I want to check out before adding them to my list.

Then a second serendipity occurred. NCT announced that sometime in 2014 double-deck buses will be returning to the 35 bus route, so with luck the two events will happen at about the same time.

At 70 I am ready for more changes than just moving house. I have no committees to attend and my only 'commitment' as such will be to organising the Angel Row History Forums in Nottingham Central Library, which are now in their fourth year, for Nottinghamshire Local History Association (NLHA) in partnership with the city's Local Studies Library.

At some point this blog will take second place to History By Bus, which I see as a prompt to ensure I get out and about more often (by bus of course). Some of you may have noticed already that I posted a entry about the Erewash valley on the new blog yesterday. The map is new, but the rest is recycled material. It is early days yet and I am still working through ideas, so watch this space!