Saturday, 15 March 2014

A 35 sortie

Today, between house viewers, I took a couple of hours out to do a little exploring in preparation for my 35 history bus tour on 24 May. The map below shows where my sortie took me, plus, not shown on the map, a short hop on a 35 from Wigman Road to Bracebridge Drive shops at the southern end of Bilborough.

It was a perfect early Spring afternoon for walking. Blue skies and a fresh wind reminding me that Winter had not quite yet given up its hold.

The photograph below is taken from the Picture the Past collections of Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire councils and shows Broxtowe Hall, demolished in the 1930s so that a council housing estate could be built on the land it once occupied.

Its demolition made way for something nobler, grander; these were Labour's aspirations to improve the lives of the working class and they did. This quote from Broxtowe Boy by Derrick Butress, published in 2004, page 7, says it far better than I can:

In the early spring of 1939 (75 years ago)... we joined the exodus of families, most of them from the old slum areas, to the new estates west of the city. Nottingham had an admirable record of slum clearance and re-housing from 1919 until well into the 20th century. (The) Broxtowe Estate was an expression of that pioneering energy. It was built of ugly red brick, but designed with good intent, plotted and planned for a new way of life.

(Derrick Buttress was born in 1932 in nearby Hyson Green, on the northern edge of Nottingham City Centre).

Broxtowe Hall, demolished c1937. See Notts History website.

Two road signs look across towards one another at the entrance to Broxtowe Hall Close, off Broxtowe Lane.

From Broxtowe Lane, you can catch a glimpse of this wall, a remnant of the long gone Broxtowe Hall estate, remembered in the name of a cul-de-sac. It looks very impressive. I will use its location to track down a plan of the estate, so that I can place the wall in some kind of context.

Just around the corner, on Broxtowe Lane, is a small parade of shops. This is one them. Opened in 1958 and still going strong. On my visit I met Ted Clements and his colleague Jason Yates, who grew up in Broxtowe Hall Close and was able to confirm that the wall was part of the pre-war Broxtowe Hall estate.

The council housing built along Broxtowe Lane during the 1930s came in a variety of styles and arrangements, punctuated every so often with lovely looking houses like these, in the 'arts and crafts' style. Others, as below, are arranged in crescents, set back from the road. When I go back I will take a photograph of the City Council sign which says 'No ball game allowed'. Even the most enlightened council can be guilty of what I have long known as 'municipal fascism'. Local historian Chris Matthews, who is working with TravelRight, talks of the estates as being part of the 'Garden City' movement and I agree.

My next sortie will be spending best part of a day walking the length of Wollaton Vale in search of the Nottingham Canal and how the road reflects changing attitudes to housing during a large part of the 20th century. Its post-war council housing alludes to what happened before the 1939–45 war, but never does it reach the heights of this crescent on Broxtowe Lane.

I came across several small parades of shops like this one on Broxtowe Lane and the parade below, only a few hundred yards away, at the junction of Broxtowe Lane and Strelley Road.
Most are occupied. No Costa Coffee or Subways here, though I did see a Greggs on Bracebridge Drive. To the right of this photograph there are some closed up Co-op shops and the left is a Co-op 'superstore'. There are Co-op shops the length of this short walk. They are a topic in themselves. Something for another day.

Being a Saturday afternoon, it may be that this small hairdresser and beauty parlour was closed anyway. I hope so. I like the pink butterflies in the panels and imagine the enthusiasm and enterprise of the person responsible.

A number of Broxtowe bus stops display very large route numbers, like this at the Moor Road stop on Strelley Road.  I have never seem bigger.

Opposite the bus stop, at the junction of Strelley Road, is the sign, pointing to (Bilborough) parish church. To the right a King George post box. It hints at what is to come, something quite unexpected and, I am ashamed to say, unnoticed by me until I came this way on a 35 in January. Thirty years a 35 passenger, albeit occasionally, and there is this...

... delightful Nottingham City Council community centre, known as the Sheila Russell Centre.

To one side, the Centre has its own secluded garden. A rare delight.

A little further on, past some cottages and through a gate, I entered the churchyard of Bilborough's St Martin's Church, It has a modern extension of some artistic importance, but more about that when I have had the opportunity to see inside. For now, enjoy this view of a church at the heart of the original pre-conquest Bilborough. A reminder that people have lived and worked here for a thousand years at least.

Turn around and you look across open playing fields, offering a panoramic view of Nottingham, with tower blocks gleaming in the sunlight. A million miles away or so it seemed for a few brief minutes, then it was off to catch a 35 to Bracebridge Drive shops and to look at a view I have always remembered from travelling on a 35, especially upstairs on a double-decker and why it has long been my candidate for the title of Nottingham's 'Heritage Bus Route'.

As I have said already, the Co-op is everywhere on the Broxtowe, Strelley and Bilborough estates and, by chance, the 1954 Nottingham street map I found included the advert below for the shopping parade above. Windows now boarded up, shutters down, this Co-op parade of shops is a pale imitation of what the 1954 advert promises.

Then I caught sight of this. Yet another small, independent, hardware shop on the 35 route and, standing in the shop talking to its owner, who told me it opened in 1950, I realised what my 35 History Bus Day on 24 May will be about. If you take the time to stop and talk to the folk who live, work and shop along the route of the 35, you experience Nottingham in all its glory, made as much, if not more, by those who live in the shadow of  a 'citycentric' City Council who wield the power.

By chance more than design, this photograph of Wollaton Hall was the first one I took today, from my seat on the 35 bus taking me onto Broxtowe Lane. The 'Bracebridge Drive Shops' bus stop sits across the road's T-junction with Graylands Road and, as my bus idled away a few minutes, I had the opportunty to take this photograph. 

What I have written above about ordinary folk and those who 'wield the power' is a timeless story and is one 16th century Bilborough folk would recognise and understand. Then it was the rich families who owned the land and built the likes of Wollaton and Broxtowe Halls who were in charge. 

This will be my story on 24 May as we travel on the top deck of our 35 from Bulwell to Nottingham City Centre. Quite how I will tell it, is still in the making. Right now I just hope you will enjoy my photographs and this blog.

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