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The High Road in Beeston - Willoughby Street to City Road

The section of the south side of the High Road, between Willoughby Street and City Road was typical of much of the High Road as a whole, in that it evolved from its ancient agricultural usage in the 19th Century. After gaining a frontage sometimes built as housing and sometimes as shops, all were to evolve into shops as demand grew as the 20th Century progressed. Our story will explore this transition and tell the story of the personalities who lived and traded in this part of the High Road.

High Rd - Willoughby St to City Road

At the time of the Enclosure in 1809, the land to the south of the High Road - then the Nottingham to Sawley Turnpike - was essentially open pasture made up of crofts, running between there and what is now Middle Street. In contrast to the surrounding open fields, then the subject of the enclosure, it was part of ancient village core, made up of crofts that were had been individually owned for many years. Any buildings that did then exist were cottages and simple buildings to support farming activities and craftsmen. The frontage that is now being examined. between Willoughby Street and City Road, was part of one of these crofts and was known as Caulton Croft. Overall, it was 1 acre 3 roods 15 perches in size and was owned by the Rickards family. Hawkes land sale Starting in the early 1850s the croft was to be sold-off, sub-divided and developed to respond to the demands of a growing population. City Road - earlier known as Cox's Lane - formed its eastern boundary and became, the basis of new housing development which led to the opening up of Portland Street and Willoughby Street for more housing, for small commercial ventures and the building of a United Methodist Free Church on Willoughby Street. In 1851, the croft, along with other Rickards land, was sold by Maria Rickards, then unmarried and living on Willoughby Street, to Reverend Francis Baron de Paravicini, then the Vicar of South Scarle, Notts. He then divided the land into lots which were offered for sale at public auction in May 1852. It appears that much, if not all of the land we are now focused on was bought by one Matthew Hawkes who set about marketing the land in lots which were, in turn, advertised for sale in June 1858 (see right). It seems likely that Lot 1 became the site of The Prince of Wales pub and that Lot 2 became the site of much of the High Road frontage - possibly what is now 88 to 104 High Road. Lots 3 and 4 appear to cover the land to the rear fronting onto City Road and Portland Street. During the next ten years, the development of these lands would take place and form what largely survives today.

The photograph shown above, dated from about 1910, shows this busy section of the High Road, between Willoughby Street (just off the right-hand extremity of the picture) and City Road - which may be seen in the distance. As we have described above, it emerged in its present form during the 1860s, consisting of 18 individual multi-storey units, in three sections terminated by a public house - The Prince of Wales - on the corner of City Road. In the early days, many of the units, particularly those at the eastern end, were in residential use but this had changed by the early decades of the 20th Century as the character of the High Road evolved. During many of the years prior to 1890, the properties were not numbered - which makes the identification of occupants a challenge - but by 1891, they were identified as numbers 38 to 64 High Road but became numbers 72 to 106 in the renumbering of the High Road that took place in 1908 1 and remain so today.

The section of three shops at the western end of the block, on the corner of Willoughby Street, now numbered 72 to 76 (38 - 42 before the renumbering in 1908) appears to be different from most of the remainder in that it is likely that it was built for retail use rather than evolving from residential use, as did the remainder. Above the ground floor shop area, the then fashionable two floors were provided, usually for living accommodation but perhaps sometimes, for storage. There follows the story of each of the occupant of each of the properties in turn:

72 (previously 38) High Road - This property started its life as a butcher's shop and has continued in the role for over 150 years and remains so today. First to trade there, certainly by 1871, was Samuel Meads, the third son, one of at least seven children of Joseph & Elizabeth (née Stevenson). Although his father was born in Chilwell, Notts and was a cattle dealer, based on his 17-acre farm there for much of his life, Samuel was born in Redhill near Arnold, Notts where his parents lived for about five years following their marriage in 1816. Towards the end of 1859, Samuel married Selina Wallis in Radford, Nottingham. Born in 1839, the daughter of Harriett Wallis and originally from Stapleford, Notts, she was barely half his age. By 1861, he had begun trading as a butcher, based on Villa Street, Beeston, almost undoubtedly selling meat from the family farm in Chilwell, now in the hands of his mother following the death of his father in 1854. By the late 1860s, when this group of shops first became available, Joseph had the confidence to become the first occupant of the key corner and, it is believed. to have established a slaughter house immediately to the rear of the shop. Then in 1873, after almost fourteen years of marriage, Joseph, the couple's first and only child, was born. In around 1885 Samuel retired from the business and the couple, with their son Joseph, moved to Holly Villa, 1 Rylands Road, Beeston. In 1891, Joseph married and moved away. Samuel died in April 1896, aged 74, and was buried in Attenborough Churchyard amongst others from the Meads family. His wife followed in 1899, aged 60. In 1894, Joseph married Esther Spencer and they went on to have five daughters over the next ten years. Joseph had worked as an iron turner and as a brickyard labourer but, by 1911, everything had started to go wrong in the family. Whilst the eldest daughter was able to take a job and stay at home, the second eldest became an 'inmate' at Thorp Arch Industrial School in Yorkshire and, in 1910, the other three were placed in the care of the Poor Law Guardians at the Bagthorpe Workhouse School in Nottingham. It was clearly a personal tragedy for all the family members but it also became a financial tragedy too. When Samuel Meads died in 1896, his estate was not settled immediately and, over the following years, particularly when his widow died, his will became largely outdated. But, by 1915, for whatever reason, it was decided to settle his estate, then valued at 478, largely in favour of his son Joseph. This windfall did not, however, go unnoticed and the Board of Guardians instituted immediate proceedings to recover 245 11s 3d, being the expenses of maintaining the three daughters in the Workhouse School for 5 years. By this time, it seems Joseph and Esther had each gone their own way. Esther died in 1945, probably in Beeston and Joseph died in 1952 in Nottingham.

Wm Thums The next occupant of this property was William Thums who, as well as operating a popular butcher's shop, contributed to and influenced life in Beeston in many ways. Born in Beeston in 1855, he was the eldest of six children of William Tomlinson Thums, a tailor, and his wife Ann (née Day). Sadly, his father died in 1858 when William was 13 and about to start his working life and, in the circumstances, it is not surprising that he started in the lace trade. But, in 1875, Ann married lace maker Peter Kirkby, a widower, some 22 years older, with three adult children of his own. The Kirkby family were already well-established and included Frederick Kirkby who taught music and ran a music shop on the High Road as well as Samuel Kirkby who had married Annie Thornhill, the eldest daughter of the well-established and influential Beeston tailor, William Thornhill. These new connections could not fail to broaden William Thum's horizons and to strengthen his connections. In April 1878, William married Emma Wheatley, born in Beeston in 1855, the daughter of John and Sarah (née Hazeldine) Wheatley and they set up home on Middle Street West and were to go on to have four children - a son and three daughters. While still in his early-20s, William started trading as a butcher from the Middle Street address but, in about 1885, no doubt encouraged by the wider family that he now had around him, made the decision to take over from Samuel Meads and move to this High Road address. It was the beginning of a period of 53 years of successful trading there - but his contribution to Beeston went much further. His musical abilities enabled him hold the position of conductor of the Beeston Choral Society for many years and to serve as organist for 44 years at the New Connexion Methodist Chapel on Chapel Street and he was an active member there and in its successor chapel, the United Methodist Church which, by a happy coincidence, stood on Willoughby Street, to the rear of his shop. He was Secretary to the chapel's Trustees for 42 years. The writer's wider family had good cause to thank him for his wisdom in musical matters when a hugely talented family member was encouraged by him as a young man (click here to read about this).

In politics, he was a Conservative who served on the Beeston Council for 35 years, up to 1935, was its Chairman on five occasions and chaired several of its committees over the years. At various times he held the Chairmanship of the local Conservative Association, was President of the Butchers' Association locally and, for 40 years, was treasure of the Imperial Order of Oddfellows locally. During the Great War he was a member of the Beeston Military Service Tribunal which heard applications for exemption from conscription and proved himself a wide and fair contributor at its hearings. Emma, his wife died in December 1934 and is buried in Beeston Cemetery. The photograph of William (right) dates from around this time. William continued to work until a week or two before his death, aged 83, in August 1938. He was buried with his wife in Beeston Cemetery.

After William Thums died, the business was continued at this location by George William Longley. Longley was born in Plumtree, Notts in August 1906, where his father, Herbert Longley, was a farm worker. Tragically for the family, his mother, Emily Gertrude (née Wilson) died in April 1909, Leaving four children. George, who was then not yet three years old was then brought up by his maternal grandmother and aunts in Nottingham. In 1932 he married Winifred Ivy Lancaster in the Belper, Derbyshire area in 1932. They moved to Beeston with their daughter and their son was born there in 1940. Around 1960, they retired and moved to live out their retirement in Lincolnshire, in Trusthorpe near Mablethorpe. George died in May 1984, followed by Winifred in 1991.

By the early 1960s, the butchers shop was operated by A Armitage Ltd and is now (2021) operated by Craig Dawson who continue the tradition of family butchers that has existed on this site for over 150 years.

74 (previously 40) High Road - was occupied, by 1871, as a butchers shop by Edward Foster, who was born in Beeston in 1821. His eldest brother was Robert Foster, who was a partner in the well established firm of horticultural builders, Foster & Pearson and, as a young man, Edward had begun to follow the same career path as a joiner. In 1848, he married Jane Attenborough, the daughter of William Attenborough, a cattle dealer based in Toton, Notts. and Hannah his wife. This appears to have prompted a change in career direction as, by 1851, he had set up in business as a butcher on Brown Lane (now Station Road), Beeston. Sadly, in 1855, Jane died, aged only 24. Being left with their two young children, Hannah Maria who had been born in 1851 and Robert, born in 1854, would not have helped Edward to cope with the pressures of the business. Elizabeth was taken-in by Edward's brother Robert and his wife., who had no surviving children of their own, and was eventually to become Robert's main beneficiary. In April 1857 Edward married Hannah Shorthose, the daughter of John Shorthose, an innkeeper in Duffield, Derbyshire and his wife Hannah and, together, they continued with the Beeston business. Two children were born to them in 1858 and 1859. But by about 1861, it seems that his business pressures had become acute and, in July 1962 he was declared bankrupt and moved to live at Woolley Moor, near Alfreton, Derbyshire. He was discharged in September 1862 and eventually returned to Beeston. Now, in 1871, he was once more trading as a butcher at this High Road property. Sadly, it did not last long as by 1891 he and his wife had moved to Loughborough where Edward had found work as a labourer. Hannah died in 1890 and Edward was left living alone, working as a works caretaker. Sadly, we cannot be sure when or where he died.

The next occupants of the property were John Wadsworth, his wife Ellen and their four children, supported by a domestic servant. Wadsworth was a carpenter and joiner so it is unlikely that he was trading from the shop. Although he was born in Beeston, in 1840, and had previously lived on the High Road with his parents, by the mid-1860 he had moved to London. There he married Ellen Marriott, a native of Hose in Leicester who had earlier lived and worked in Nottingham. Three daughters were born to the couple while they were in London and their son was born in Beeston after their return in 1878. John died in Nottingham in June 1890 aged 50, apparently having recently moved from Beeston. Ellen continued to live in Nottingham, apparently in reduced circumstances, until her death in 1917, aged 80.

Thomas Hands, who, with his wife Elizabeth (née Barrowcliffe), was the occupant of this property by about 1880, trading as a pork butcher. It was an important move by a member of a family which was to make a significant contribution to Beeston life for decades to come. Thomas was born in Sutton Bonington, Notts in about 1838, the eldest of at least four children - three sons and a daughter - born to Ann Hands and, it seems, her long time partner, Samuel Towle. After starting his working life as a potter, by 1871, he had moved to Beeston. It is possible, though we have found no proof, that this move was inspired by Samuel Towle who had been born in Beeston. At first he worked as an agricultural labourer, living on Nether Street, Beeston and took Elizabeth Barrowcliffe as his housekeeper. Born in Beeston in 1845, she was the daughter of Charlotte Barrowcliffe who had later married coal dealer Joseph Walker who lived and traded nearby on Nether Street. Thomas & Elizabeth married in January 1872. Their move to what was then 40 High Road followed about 1880. Although they were to have no children they were able to look to Thomas's wider family for support as the business grew. In 1883, Thomas's nephew, the son of brother Samuel, the then 15-year-old George Hands moved from Sutton Bonington to assist in the business. After 12 years working together, during which the business became firmly established on the High Road, George Hands took over control and Thomas and his wife retired to live at 75 Imperial Road, Beeston. Thomas died in April 1910, aged 72, and was survived by some 19 years by his widow, Elizabeth, who died in July 1929, aged 84. They are buried together in Beeston Cemetery where a memorial survives to their memory.

Hands AdvertNow that George had taken over the business, it seems he had the confidence to marry, doing so in the same year, 1895. His bride was Emma Elizabeth Watson. the daughter of Joseph Watson, a daughter of Joseph Watson, a butcher who traded at 1 Willoughby Street, just around the corner, and his late wife, Elizabeth (née Wheatley). Over the next 28 years, with the help of Elizabeth and building on the reputation that had been established by his uncle, George took the business to even greater heights. Trading next to William Thums, meant that locals found it amusing to be able to say that 'Hands was next to Thums'! But, happily, as they were in different branches of Geo Hands the butchery trade - one specialising in beef and mutton the other a pork butcher, it seems they were able to survive amicably side-by-side over the years. They both served on the Council - though George was a Liberal whilst William was a Conservative. Both were active Methodists - though George was a Wesleyan while William preferred the New Connexion (later the United Methodists) but both had a record of service to the community. George's undoubted success, it seems, owed much to the supply network that he was able to establish, built chiefly on family contacts back in Sutton Bonington - mainly his parents, Samuel & Sarah Ann (née Gilbert) and their family who were farmers and had, by then, adopted the name 'Towle' as their family name. By 1911, Samuel and his family had moved to Manor Farm at nearby Burton-on-the-Wolds. Leicestershire, probably to meet the demand. It was an excellent arrangement for all concerned. The farm had a steady customer for its product and the Beeston shop could offer an assured supply - made possibly by the direct rail links from Sutton Bonington to Beeston - of fresh products, including eggs and dairy products as well as its pork and other products. At the height of this, the shop was said to be selling 6,000 eggs and 250 rabbits each week 'in addition to other good things' and it had developed a reputation for 'Hands specialties' that were being sent to enthusiasts throughout Britain - and sometimes even abroad. The importance of this became even more valued by its customers during the Great War, when such things were often hard to get for most people but George's supply chain managed to still obtain some. George (shown left) was elected to Beeston Council in 1908 for three years after which his wife became elected in his place and took an interest in child welfare issues, while a councillor and afterwards as a volunteer at the welfare centre. The couple were also well known and respected for their benevolence in the community. Both George and Emma were active Wesleyan Methodists at Chilwell Road and were also connected with Queens Road Methodist Church. In 1918, both husband and wife suffered badly from the effects of the 'flu epidemic with George's health being particularly affected such that, in 1923, he decided to retire, moving to live at 'The Hollies' at 45 Middle Street and later that year he suffered a heart attack. Although he survived that incident, his health remained fragile. Sadly he died, aged only 56, in June 1925. Emma died in July 1937, aged 65. They are buried together in Beeston Cemetery where a memorial survives to their and their two son's memory. Fredrick, their second son, was born towards the end of 1909 and sadly died in February of the following year. Their elder son, Joseph George Hands, born in 1899, was to make his name in Beeston in a different field before his early death, age only 40, in 1940. As a young man, he decided that he wished to enter the grocery business and, accordingly, his parents ensured that he received a good grounding in the trade with the well known Nottingham-based firm of J D Marsden Ltd. In 1928 he purchased the long-established grocery shop at Chilwell Road, Beeston that had been operated there since 1911 by Frederick Osborne Lanes. With his typical enthusiasm he transformed the old-fashioned shop, ensured that it was well-stocked and it opened for business with a flourish that appealed to customers. He soon went on to add a cafe above the shop that catered for meetings, wedding receptions and similar events. Early in 1939, he married Maggie Boden but sadly he died unexpectedly in May 1940, aged only 40. The cafe - known as 'Hands Cafe' - continued successfully for many years and many local couples - including the writer and his bride - held their wedding reception there.

The premises were then occupied for a short while by Rose Ann Bittles as a sweet shop but, by 1932, it was occupied by hairdresser, Clifford Henry Stanley (known as 'Cliff') Brown who had traded previously at 87 High Road. He was born in March 1906, the eldest surviving child of Henry & Harriet (née Priestley) Brown. Henry, who served in both the Boer War and the Great War, worked at Beeston Boiler Company as a fitter and lived with his family at 37 Station Road, Beeston before moving to 28 Stoney Street. Cliff married Mabel Warner in April 1931, at Beeston Parish Church. He is believed to have retired during the 1960s and later moved to live out his life at Jassamine Court on Middle Street, Beeston. He died in April 1974.

Nowadays the shop is combined with the one next door at no. 76 and has been a charity shop but, at the time of writing (March 2012) it is vacant

76 (previously 42) -

The story of this and the remainder of the properties up to City Road, will be added in due course

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Footnotes - (Note: the respective footnote text may now be viewed in a pop-up window by clicking on any blue, underscored note number within the main text)
Where reference is made to the Probate Calender (Index giving brief details of grant of Probate/Administration), unless specifically stated, the full will and probate documentation has not been seen.
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