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The Development of Housing in Beeston, Nottinghamshire
During our exploration of the various aspects of Beeston's history elsewhere on this site, we have described its transition from a area of open fields with a small central area that housed
the majority of its population to a dynamic town that had expanded to all of its boundaries. That transition, which started in the 19th century and continued in to the 20th, was fueled by improvements
in communication links - both road and rail - and the eventual spectacular increase in manufacturing activity made possible by available space for the development of factories, a new feature which replaced traditional
cottage-based working. And too, Beeston's position relative to the big Midlands cities, notably nearby Nottingham, where late enclosure led to space for development becoming extremely scarce there, led
to Beeston becoming a favourable alternative for industrial development and as a dormitory suburb.
Over the 19th century as a whole, Beeston's population grew nine-fold, from less than 1000 to almost 9000, and was to reach over 16,000 by 1931. Clearly. this had meant an increasing need
to provide houses for this spectacular increase in the population - and a relatively affluent one too. This then, is the story of how that need for housing in Beeston was met.
Beeston in 1800 -
When the 19th century opened, almost the whole population of Beeston lived in and immediately around the old village core, an area of relatively small crofts where the majority of its just over 900 residents - mostly artisans,
small shopkeepers and labourers - had their homes and eked out a living. The area (shown right, in 1820 1) was loosely bounded to the north by what is
now the High Road - then the Nottingham to Sawley Turnpike - and, to the south, by what is now Nether Street. To the west, it took in the area of what is now West End, close to where the church has stood since ancient times,
and, to the east, it extended little further than the end of the present High Road. In the main, the houses were simple and relatively scattered amongst the arrangement of crofts and were largely focused on what became
established streets between what is now High Road and Middle Street. Sanitation would have been primitive and wells would have provided water. The homes included some that had the many-windowed upper floors that were a feature
of framework knitters' cottages. There were a few, grander, exceptions including the Manor House on Market Street (now Middle Street), the ancient Vicarage and houses on the West End, but these were very much the exception.
All around that relatively small central area, were open fields, mostly still unenclosed and subject to tithes, with just an occasional farm house or cottage. It is said that from the house at the top of Dovecote Lane
(now on the corner of Manor Avenue) there were no houses until the lock keeper's cottage at the canal, where there was also a tiny community of framework knitters and canal workers. To the north, all was
open fields, again with just an occasion cottage, although sections of land had recently been acquired by the banker, John Fellows, who had been attracted by the view from the higher ground.
The Basis for Change -
In 1809, following the passing of an Act of Parliament in 1806 which authorised enclosure, the ownership of sections of Beeston's ancient open fields that had been held in common, subject to tithes - some 822 acres -
were allocated to the three tithe owners - the Vicar, Henry Cavendish and Rev Peter Strey Broughton - and to forty-eight individuals who had held rights in common. The Vicar also received an allocation in lieu of
his glebe rights and there was an allocation to the poor of Beeston. Although there were undoubtedly short-term losers in this process, the land, now free of tithes and other burdens was available, in the
longer term, for other uses - an obvious requirement if Beeston was to develop its economy away from dependence on agriculture and framework knitting, an already failing cottage industry. Another clear
advantage gained by the enclosure was its definition of a basic road structure which replaced the now outdated ancient tracks. Now a total of 1½ acres were assigned to road and defined pathway
use and the road widths were prescribed, though perhaps not generously. The width of the Nottingham/Derby turnpike (now Derby Road) was set at 50 feet, the Sawley Turnpike (now High Road) at 40 feet and Cowgate
(now Wollaton Road) at only 30 feet. Basic and far away from what we would expect of roads today that they were, they at least provided the basis of an 'escape' from the village core which had the potential for
industrial and housing development throughout the wider Beeston.
Although Enclosure was an important pre-requisite of Beeston's economic transformation, and certainly encouraged and improved agriculture as well, it was not a factor that showed itself greatly, in terms of housing, over the next thirty years or so - although, as we will see,
there were a few significant exceptions. The overall picture was of a time when the traditional home-based framework knitters were reduced to extreme poverty with their housing showing distinct signs of decay - especially
in areas where there was a concentration of their cottages. Dwellings occupied by knitters in The City, a very early part of the central core, were already very old, in a very bad shape and essentially unfit for habitation.
The ancient almshouses, called Poor Row, at the side of the Parish Church had become so dilapidated that they were pulled down when the church was rebuilt in 1843/4. And, the silk mill, opened in 1826, offered only
low-paid employment, appealing mainly to young, predominantly female workers as an alternative to their traditional role in the frame knitting trade. As a result, it lead to a minimal amount of associated new housing -
perhaps little more that the small area of low-grade housing in Mill Yard which appeared adjacent to the mill.
But during that time there were some signs of progress, driven by the early attempts, largely in the 1820s, to take advantage of the rise of machine-made lace. At this stage, the machines were similar in
scale to knitting frames and therefore - and perhaps inevitably - led to an overheated, boom/bust period of "twist-net fever" alongside the traditional and declining knitters. This involved two areas of housing
development, still within or on the fringes of the old village core. Homes and associated workshops appeared on Villa Street which expanded to include Cross Street, an area which was later to become the site
of the Pollard family's Swiss Mills. On the other side of the village core, Chapel Street 2 was opened up with two Methodist chapels a feature, alongside
both housing and workshops, with Henry Kirkland a key innovator. Of particular significance was the creation, by the incomer, William Vickers, later joined by William Felkin, of an early, small lace factory at the northern end
of Villa Street 3. Although short lived, it set a precedent which led later to industrial innovation by incomers, using the abundance of available land within
Beeston overall. The Vickers/Felkin initiative inevitable led to demand for housing to accommodate the workers, some of which were incomers. As a result, housing began to appear on Butchers Lane (Previously Cowgate and now
Wollaton Road), particularly on the west side, opposite where the Vickers/Felkin factory had appeared. This was on land that had been allocated by the Enclosure to Rev. Peter Strey Broughton, a descendent of Richard Strey,
the last of Beeston's squires. In 1851, he sold it to Samuel Herrick Surplice who, in 1853, sold it to the then Beeston silk mill owners, John Watson and Francis Butcher Gill and was to include the housing on Wollaton Road
as far as Dennison Street 4
In 1839 the Nottingham to Derby railway arrived in Beeston and had the immediate effect of making Beeston potentially visible to the outside world - and, indeed, increasing Beeston's awareness of the world beyond its
boundaries. These were eventually to become vital contributors to the town's development and to its attraction as a place to live. Nottingham, its close neighbour, unlike Beeston. was unable to extend into the unenclosed
fields that surrounded it and, as a result, had become grossly overcrowded and an unattractive place to make home 5. Consequently, those who could afford to do
so soon discovered the convenience of commuting by train to a house they had build or found in Beeston. As a direct result, a number of distinctive, villa-type homes soon appeared around the station and became early examples
of Beeston as a dormitory suburb and can still be recognised today despite their tendency to have been converted to multiple occupancy, nursing homes or small hotels. The development tucked away at the side of the north platform
of the station, known as Station Villas, which began to be developed shortly after the railway arrived, is perhaps the best example that remains relatively untouched with some properties retaining their private access gates onto
the station platform 6.
The 1841 census provides us with an indication of any changes that had occurred in Beeston and its housing and environment generally over the first four decades of the century. And. it is clear that, despite the major changes
in its infrastructure, they had been resulted in only minor changes in housing and everyday life so far. Nevertheless, the population, now numbering about 2800, making up nearly 600 households, had more than doubled over the
past thirty years and it may have have been encouraging to note that about a quarter of the heads of household had been born outside of the county - perhaps indicating that Beeston was becoming relatively attractive to
outsiders. Nevertheless, despite the relatively minor changes in housing trends we have identified, the distribution of the population was largely as it was in 1809 - mostly resident in the old village core surrounded by
large areas of open fields to the north and south. The wide gap between the top of Dovecote (now, for the time being, graced with the name 'Top of the Town') and the small canal side community, was changed only by the coming
of the railway. More encouraging were some indications that its pioneering lace making activities represented an alternative to the reliance on framework knitting and that the experiments that had been made towards factory
working, despite a setback which was to continue for another twenty or thirty years, still remained the hope for the future prosperity of Beeston - and therefore, its housing.
Real Progress at Last - in the event, it wasn't until the last quarter of the 19th century that progress in the form of structured housing developments appeared. Beeston was then beginning to define its future with major initiatives in
the lace trade, led by Frank Wilkinson and John Pollard, beginning to drive a demand for more housing. As we have already mentioned, housing for the regular workforce, mostly terraced housing in the Wollaton Road area had already
appeared and was broadly covering that need. But, some saw the need to improve standards to attract the aspiring profesionnal and entrepreneurial members of the population who were part of the new industry or would also be attracted
to Beeston by its open spaces, relative to the increasingly over populated cities, a phenomenum that had already been demonstrated by the appearnce of villa-type housing around the railway station, built for commuters seeking an escape
from overcrowded Nottingham. Parcels of land in Beeston that would build on these early iniatives appeared regularly in the Nottingham newspapers, often mentioning that they "command beautiful views" - an indication of how the outer areas of the village
were still largely undeveloped and still offering attractive views down to the river.
In the closing the years of the 1870s, extending in to the early years of the 1880s, three significant housing developments got underway to the west of the village core and became defining features of the wider community. The effect
of these newcomers to the Beeston scene can clearly be seen on the map, shown right, dated around 1890. The first of these developments, launched in 1877, was the St Johns Grove Estate, centered on what is now Devonshire Avenue. There, just
over 21 acres of land were acquired by a group of local investors, mostly businessmen, who formed The Beeston Land Society for that purpose.
The land had been allocated to The Vicar at the time of the Enclosure in 1809, in lieu of his ancient right of tithes but was now effectively in the control of The Church Commissioners for England who now agreed to sell the land
with terms and restrictions set out in the deed dated 9 August 1877. The price was £3,761 8s 2d (about £350,000 in todays values) which was paid, along with the cost of laying out the development, by the members of the Society. In turn,
they were each allocated one or more of the 28 plots of land. The cost of laying out of the roads - Devonshire Avenue, Elm Avenue, Newcastle Avenue, Vicarage Street, Cavendish Place, Glebe Street and a small section, then known as Glebe
Street North, which later became the southern end of Bramcote Road - were to be met by the subscribers. Only residential building were allowed and they were required to meet a stiputalated minimum rental value. Building lines were defined
and boundary walls or hedges were required to be provided by occupiers. No steam engines, factories, public houses, beer-houses, dissenting chapels or public elementary schools were allowed to be built. It was to be a private estate with access
restricted to residents, visitors and servants. It is believed that, in these early days, access was restricted by gates, similar to those that still exist at The Park Estate in Nottingham. One possible reminder of the early days of the
development was the provision of a metal horse trough at the Chilwell Road end of Devonshire Avenue. Probably provided for the use of trademen's horses, outside the gate, it survived until sometime in the 1950s and is well remembered by older
The Society was to be managed by a small group of of Trustees, James Butler, Joseph Orchard and William Roberts who, along William Flewitt, Benjamin Collington, Francis Wilkinson, William Kirkland and Robert Lowe, all of them subscribers,
formed the initial management committee, responsibile for approving any buildings on the development, ensuring that the roads were kept in good order and setting an annual rate requiring the plot owners to pay the costs involved. There
were rules for replacing committee members and two of their number to retire and be replaced each year, after the early years. They were required to appoint a Secretary, who was initially Robert Hogg, and a Treasurer, initially
James Butler. The Secretary was to be paid an appropriate fee.
Details of the original investors, Trustees and Committee may be seen HERE
Almost all of the initial buyers appear not to have any intention of building and living on the land that they now owned but, in seems, treated it as an investment to sell-on. As the typical plot of land in the development was unusually
large - over 3000 square yards - the scope for finding an end buyer for what was a relatively rich person's location was, it seems. limited, the typical aspiring person's housing need which was soon being met by the nearby more competitive
Imperial Park and Belle Vue developments. Whilst it may have initially been intended that each plot would be the site for a grand house - and the committee was tasked to ensure that - this seems to have been compromised over the years when
the original plots were sub-divided and more modest houses were built. More recently, the large plot sizes have allowed infilling with homes not always in keeping with the original. In the event, the earliest buildings were often semi-detached
villas but much of the original intention in the form of stylish, individual houses did begin to appear over time.
What could be seen as a strange road arrangement at the eastern end of Glebe Street which involves a very sharp bend. perhaps needs some explanation. It was originally laid out that way to accommodate the traditional route of the ancient
path to Bramcote, shown clearly on the plan (right), that ran from Chilwell Road from where Foster Avenue now stands, up to the time it effectively became built over and relationised in the 1930s. Then, its diagonal route across the
Foster land that was being developed was realigned around the site of the Roundhill Infants School, finishing where it met the end of Glebe Street. The route from there to the still existing path off Bramcote Drive and alongside the golf course
first became an issue when the St Johns Grove development was being designed and continued to be an issue when other housing developments to the north were being planned. The Beeston Land Society had put its proposal to the Local Board in August
1877 and, after consideration it was agreed that the route of the path should be incorporated into what was at first Glebe Street North and later became part of Bramcote Road as other developments resulted in it being extended, sometime running
at an angle in controst to the otherwise more formal 'up-and-across' road pattern of the new development. The resulting, extremely tight, bend at the end of Glebe Street became a particular obstacle when, in 1971-2, there was a proposal to
construct a northern ring road to take traffic around Beeston, complementing the southern ring road that had recently been formed by extending Middle Street to Chilwell Road. Somewhat remarkably - and very controversially at the time - this
£100,000 proposal involved routing traffic up Devonshire Avenue and via Glebe Street, Bramcote Road, Park Street, Broughton Street, Abbey Road and Marlborough Road to join the junction of High Road and Humber Road. Clearly, the junction of Glebe
Street and Bramcote Road was an obstacle to this being in any way practical so, in preparation, the Council acquired and demolished no. 2 Glebe Street that had been semi-detached with no. 4. The scheme continued to be controversial, both with
affected householders and more widely. A public meeting on 12 January 1972 filled the Roundhill School Hall and only two of that large number voted in favour of the plans and it was eventually dropped by the Council
7. The site of No. 2 was landscaped and the course of the road still passes around it, as it was originally laid out.
Somewhat ironically, this pair of houses - nos 2 and 4 Glebe Street - appear to have been the first to be built on the development, apparently for James Butler on the section of Plot 27 facing the northern end of Devonshire Avenue, being one
of the plots allocated to him when the Society was formed. As Butler continued to live on Middle Street during his lifetime, it seems that he rented the properties to others with Maria Oldrini, the widow of the late Vicar of Beeston being the
tenant, along with her daughter Jessie and with the help of a domestic servant 8, up to her death in February 1903. After James Butler died in 1893 (see details of his life by
following the link to the investors, above) Charlotte, his widow, continued to live on Middle Street for the time being, before moving to live at number 2 9, with her aged mother,
Charlotte Gent and with the help of two domestic servants when the property became available in 1903. In the event, Charlotte Butler died in March 1912 and was buried with her husband in Beeston cemetery where their
memorial survives. Her mother was to continued to live there until he own death in December 1915. She is also buried in Beeston cemetery where, again, her
The adjoining house at No 4 was occupied in similar circumstances in these early years, becoming the eventual home of Catherine Taylor, the widow of her second husband, John Taylor who had died in 1876 10.
She died in September 1914 after which, it appears, the property was occupied by Herbert John Adcock, a representative for a stationery company, who later moved, with his family, to live at 'Charnwood' - no 8 Newcastle Avenue.
In these early days of the development, almost all of the house building took place on its periphery - including Glebe Street, as we have seen - rather than on the two main roads, Devonshire Avenue and Elm Avenue. Soon after the appearance of the pair
of houses on Glebe Street, a pair of semi-detached villas were built for Robert Hogg on part of Plot 6 on the north side of Cavendish Place that he had acquired when the Society was formed. Happily, having married his second wife, Louisa Ward (née
Deakin) in September 1877, the couple were to make this their home 11. Two children were born to the couple before Louisa's early death in 1889.
Not surprisingly, the plots on Chilwell Road were an early target. Plot 2, on the eastern corner of Devonshire Avenue and opposite the Parish Church, had been acquired by Rufus Sisson who had prospered as the landlord of the Prince of Wales Inn on the
High Road, had developed a thriving cab business and had acquired a portfolio of shop premises on the High Road 12. By 1881, having retired he set out to build a pair of villas on the Chilwell
Road land and moved to live there with his family at some point prior to 1891 13. To further his sporting interests he developed the land on the corner of Devonshire Avenue as a tennis court. Sadly,
all this was brought to an end by his death in April 1894. The pair of villas, now 10/12 Chilwell Road, are today occupied by a nursery school and professional offices. The land on the corner became the site of 2 Devonshire Avenue, built for Horace Barlow who, with
his father Joseph, was a principal in the firm of J Barlow & Company, which operated as hosiery manufactures on nearby Foster Avenue. After Horace's death in 1979, Florence, his widow, continued to live at their Devonshire Avenue home until her death in 1983. It
is now the Beeston offices of Ellis-Fermor & Negus, solicitors.
Plot 3, also opposite the Parish Church, is positioned between Plot 2 and what was part of the adjoining Foster property, was allocated originally to Robert Lowe who, it appears had by about 1890, sold it to the well-known local lace making entrepreneur,
Francis Wilkinson who had built Oban House there, the imposing property that still stands today. Unfortunately, in April 1892, Wilkinson faced a major setback when his Wollaton Road factory was destroyed by fire for the second time and his subsequent
efforts to build the replacement factory that still stands today, strained his finances to the point that he was forced to sell Oban House, along with other assets 14. The property was acquired
by Reuben Reader, a manufacturing engineer, who was to live there with his wife and family until about 1913 15, before his death in 1915. The next occupants, who lived there between 1913 and 1924,
were the family of Robert Paling. Robert, born in Beeston in November 1880 was one of eight children born to Robert and Rebecca (née Allen) Paling. Two of his brothers, George and Frank, became well-established and well-known as green-grocers in Beeston while
Robert became well-established as a lace manufacturer with machines in Beeston and Long Eaton. In 1902, he had married Eleanor Ann Ebblewhite, the eldest daughter of James Storey Ebblewhite and his wife Isabella (née Todner). James was an early resident of St
Johns Grove at, 'Hesleden' 21 Devonshire Avenue where they moved to in about 1910 and was to live there up to his death in 1952. During the Great War, Robert became the Officer in Command of the Beeston & Chilwell Company of the Notts Volunteer Regiment, one part of
a life-time of service to the community given by him and his wife, who did hospital work during the war with the Red Cross of which she was a long-time member. In about 1924, the moved to Muriel Road, Beeston which was, perhaps a property more in line with their
changing needs and continued to serve the community up to their respective deaths, Robert in January 1961 and Eleanor in November in the following year. In 1926, Oban House was bought by Dr Winifred Alice Melland Thompson. Born in Ilkeston, Derbyshire in April 1898,
the second of five children born to John Ralph Melland Thompson and his second wife Alice (née Melland). In 1922, she had graduated as a doctor in London and now, after the usual hospital experience, she had settled in Beeston to become its first female General
Practitioner, from her home at Oban House. She became exceptionally well accepted in the community and went on to serve Beeston for over 40 years. After she retired in 1967, Oban House was sold to he local Council and housed the Social Services Department. In 1999,
the property was sold to Bridgeway Consulting Ltd, the present owners, providing assurance and compliance consultancy, largely to the rail industry, and was based there up to 2008 when they moved to larger premises, leasing Oban House to various non-profit and community
organisations. In retirement, Dr Thompson lived on Bramcote Drive, Beeston and, tragically, was killed while crossing the road to post letters, aged 95.
Similarly, another peripheral part of the development, what was then called Glebe Street North and is nowadays the southern end of Bramcote Road, adjacent to what had been the ancient track from Beeston to Bramcote, also became the site of some
early builds. Plot 28, on the eastern site was one of two plots allocated to Robert Lowe and, by the 1890s had become the site of a row of attractive semi-detached homes that are now 1-15 Bramcote Road. By that date, Lowe and his family occupied the newly-built
detached house at no 17 16. Later, the end section of the plot, on the corner of Glebe Street proper, became the site of 2a Glebe Street (Willoughby Cottage)
So it was that, even by the early years of the 20th century, as this image shows, building on Devonshire Avenue itself had been minimal.
But this was to change when particularly substantial houses began to appear there and elsewhere on the development which remain and are still being added to - and sometimes replaced - to this day. The story of many of these houses and, in particular their early residents may be seen here
It was in July 1878, a year after the launch of St Johns Grove, that Imperial Park, the second of these significant building estate initiatives,, was launched. Organised under the auspices of Beeston Imperial Land Society. it used essentially the same structure, owned by Trustees and managed by a committee with costs
covered by the sale of building plots to investors. One significant difference was the target market of those expected to settle there; while they would still be drawn largely from the striving professional groups, the smaller plot sizes and perhaps slightly less convenient position - and therefore less expensive initial
costs - meant that the location would appeal to a slightly less exclusive group of potential householders. It soon became clear that it was a successful formula when, in contrast to St Johns Grove, virtually all the Imperial Park plots had been built on within the first twenty years or so.
The land that the estate was laid out on was part of an allocation (Piece 66), at the time of the 1809 Enclosure, to William Charlton - likely the then new Squire of Chilwell and occupant of Chilwell Hall, following the death of his father, Thomas Charlton in 1808. In February 1814, he had married Emma Broughton, the daughter of
Revd. Peter Strey Broughton, of Tunstall Hall, Market Drayton, Shropshire who had inherited the Beeston lands and tithes from his uncle, Richard Strey, the last of the direct line of Streys, who died in 1797. It appears likely that it was through this connection that the land had, by the time of the sale to Beeston Imperial Land
Society, become part owned by Peter Broughton, the son of Peter Strey Broughton, the other joint owner being John Tayleur who lived at Buntingsdale Hall, also in Market Drayton 17. The land was conveyed to three Trustees on behalf of the Society :
The Imperial Park site was positioned between the western boundary of St Johns Grove and the Chilwell boundary, with the already mature Cottage Grove estate, dating from 1848, on the Chilwell side. To the north was land belonging to George Fellows and to the south was the then recently built Beeston Orphange (now the site
of Silverwood Nursing Home) and an area of land which soon became a further area of housing, mainly of semi-detached villas, centered at what was then Broughton Road and was later renamed as a continuation of Imperial Road and taking in Collington and Harcourt Streets. It appears that it was owned and probably developed by Charles
Wickins Simkins (c1830-1897), a successful butcher who traded in The Shables in Nottingham 27. This additional development was itself a very useful addition to Beeston's housing stock. Imperial Park itself, consisted of 56 building plots, shown right, each of around
900-950 square yards with three roads running from the north-west to the south-east. Originally, these were named Thornhill Street, Hampton Street and Cromwell Street but were to become, respectively, Imperial Raid. Hampton Grove and Cromwell Road, as they are today. Two cross roads, North Street and Ireton Street, remain as they were
- Samuel Kirkby - was born in 1848, in Beeston, the son of Peter and Rebecca (née Allen) Kirkby. He was, in every way, the epitome of the type of aspirational person who was attracted by the type of environment offered by Imperial Park. At an early age he had became clerk to the local gas company and was eventually to
be appointed its Company Secretary - a position of some considerable prestige He was an accomplished pianist and was to serve as choirmaster and organist at the Parish Church. In 1874, he had married Annie Thornhill, the eldest child of William Thornhill, the well-establised Beeston tailor who was himself a leading figure
and investor in Imperial Park. The couple and their family of seven were to evenutally move to live out their lives at 47 Imperial Road, part of the estate that he and his father-in-law had helped to create 18. He died in September 1915 followed, in April
1931 by his widow. They are buried together in Beeston Cemetery.
- Thomas Bark - was born in Beeston in about 1821, the son of Thomas & Alice (née Cox) Bark. Both he and, it seems, his parents before him, lived out their lives in The City, then an area of decaying homes in the Beeston's old central village core, populated by framework knitters, like Thomas, who were then struggling to make a
living 19. Unusually, Thomas, it seems was the owner of more than one of these homes 20 but, it also seems, he perhaps hoped for a better home environment. In the event, he was never able to
make the move and died in February 1897, followed by his widow in 1904, still living at The City. His memorial, though damaged, survives in Beeston Cemetery.
- Thomas Newstead - was born in about 1832, in Nottinghamshire, the son of Francis and Eliza (née Hunt) Newstead. As a boy, he also lived at The City, Beeston where his father toiled as a framework knitter 21. Later, he worked as a gardener. In 1854,
he married Lydia Cross and they set up home in Cottage Grove, Chilwell and, by 1871, appears to have been trading there as a nurseryman and florest 22. As we will see, Thomas left home in the late 1870s, after which nothing is known of him. Lydia, however,
continued with the business from Cedar Cottage, Cottage Grove 23.
Unfortunately, as we have seen, Newstead had left his home in August 1879, and it had not then been possible to find him. Consequently, it had been necessary, in July 1880, to petition the High Court of Justice, Chancery Division 24, so that he could be
- Henry Knowles - who was born in Beeston in about 1838, the son of Thomas and Elizabeth (née Kirkland) Knowles. He spent all his working life as a stone mason. At first he lived with his parents on Union Street, Beeston and then, after his marriage to Eliza Lowe, the daughter of George and Sarah (née Peel) Lowe,
in October 1863, they made their home on Cox's Lane (now City Road), Beeston 25. By 1891, however, they had moved to live on Imperial Road 26
but, sadly, Henry died, in March 1897. at the relatively young age of 58. Eliza died in March 1918 and she and her husband are buried in Beeston Cemetery with her father, George Lowe who died in 1890.
As was the case with St Johns Grove, it is probable that plots of land were allocated to members of the Beeston Imperial Land Society in exchange for their respective investment - which would include the costs of the roads and the costs of servicing the building plots - and that, in many cases, they were acquired as an investment to
be sold on. Indeed, advertisements soon appeared in the local papers, advertising individual plots for sale at around £125 each 28.
A new facility which arose from the marketing of Imperial Park was the Beeston Mutual Permanent Building Society which provided a mechanism by which members could invest their savings on a regular basis and, sooner or later, become entiled to borrow to buy a house. It was formed in about 1880 and, by 1883, it had 300 members and was managed by five 'arbitrators',
a committee of six, four 'stewards' and two auditors 29. Its officers and officials were :
The building society movement has its roots in the 18th century and societies took various forms before they became more formally organised by legislation which began with the Friendly Societies Act of 1793 and later by the
Building Societied Acts of 1836 and 1874 It arose from groups within society that, in general, embraced the concept of mutual aid or 'self-help' that also saw the continuing popularity of sick and annual clubs. money
clubs, burial clubs and the like. Typically, and some would say ironically, these tended to meet in inns and public houses and many of the local building socieies - including Beeston - were to do the same. Early societies
were operated as 'terminating' organisations and, despite many 'tweeks' to the method of operation over the years, tended to suffer from difficulties of building up the required funds to satisfy all their members' needs in
the society's early days against, conversely. the build up of surplus funds in its later years. By the middle of the 19th century, to address these issues, the 'Permanent Society' which provided for the reinvestment of
funds, in an infinate cycle, as they were repaid over time, became popular, particularly alongside land societies. This was the model that was adopted by the Beeston society 35.
- Secretary : Samuel Kirkby - who we have already seen, was a trustee of the Imperial Park development, an early resident there and a son-in-law of William Thornhill
- Treasurer : William Flewitt - who we have also seen as a investor and Trustee of the Beeston Land Society. After developing a very succesful plumbing business he went
to also manage the White Lion Inn in Beeston - where the Building Society hold its meetings in its early days. It seems though that this all became too much and he died, aged only 57, in
December 1882. His son, Edward Flewitt, was elected to replace him 30. In 1892, he was replaced by 'W Owen', probably William Owen, then a wood turner
who traded on Villa Street 31 who, before his death in 1898, had moved to a house on Enfield Street. The position was was then taken over by Arthur Kirkland,
the youngest son of the well-known lace manufacturer and active Wesleyan Methodist, William Kirkland. Arthur was born in Beeston in May 1853 and worked, at first, in an insurance office and later in an auction house
before joining the family lace business 32. Then, in about 1894. he took up the position of assistant rate collector and assistant overseer as well as
becoming extemely active in charity work, particularly during the Great War. In April 1882, he married Hannah Isabella Owen and they went on to have two daughters and to later move to live at Columbia Villas, 70 Imperial
Road, Beeston. He died in March 1936, some 14 years after his wife's early death in 1922. They are buried together, with their eldest daughter, in Beeston Cemetery where their
memorial survives. He had served as Secretary to the Society until it closed down in 1911 - of which, more is written below.
- Charles Stroud acted as the Society's Solicitor : a resident of Lilac Grove, Beeston 33, he practiced as a solicitor in Nottingham. He paid an
active part in Beeston as Clerk to the Local Board.
- George Goodwin, who served as Surveyer in the early days of the Society, was an estate agent, the son of a Derbyshire farmer, who had then recently settled in Beeston with his wife and family, with a home
in The City, Beeston 34. Sadly, he died in 1892 and his family moved away and he was replaced by George Burnham, born in 1848, the second son of Edward
& Ann (née Cooling). By then, George was the principle member of his generation within th well-known this family of joiners based in Villa Street, Beeston. More about this interesting family, whose business connections,
beside the joinery and associated undertakers business, included the Royal Oak public house and Elliots butchers shop, may be seen here George died in August 1910 and was buried
in Beeston Cemetery. His memorial and that of his wife Mary Hannah (née Hudston) who he had married in 1869, and several of their six children can be seen here
Various methods were used, across the societies, to determine the allocation of the granting of mortgage advances. Holding a draw amongst members to determine who was to be given an advance was perhaps the most widespread but
bidding for advances was also a method that was used, with those willing to pay the highest sum getting an earlier loan. In fact, the Beeston society appears to have used each of these methods alongside
each other. At the Annual Meeting in 1883 36, it was reported that five ballots and six 'sales' (i.e. presumably of the right to a loan) had been held in the
previous years. in 1891 37, four ballots and three 'sales' were reported. Presumably, it was in this area that the 'arbitrators' came into play. At the same time, on the face of it, the society was in a good financial position - in 1883, it reported assets of £4,646 and 143 new
shareholders during the preceding year and in 1891 it reported receipts during the past years of £1,833, loan advances of £900, withdrawals of £218 and a bank balance of £678.
The Beeston society was to continue operation for 31 years, providing mortgage loans for purchasers of houses in Imperial Park, in Bellevue Park which followed and possibly elsewhere. On the face of things, its finances
continuing to appear strong throughout but this, as we will see, was to have been an illusion when it was discovered that its accounting principles had a significant flaw such that the society had unknowingly become insolvent.
In fact it was a flaw that had shown itself already in other societies that had now shown itself in the Beeston society. It had become apparent by September 1911, when an Extraordinary meeting of the Society was called to discuss this urgent
issue. Some of the key figures had resigned and the meeting was now chaired by Harry Amos Price, the highly respected stationer and printer who had traded on the High Road for many years. Also present was Mr W Robinson
38 who had been appointed Secretary in April 1911, replacing Arthur Kirkland who had resigned after reporting figures that showed a deficit of £426 but later withdrew
them - although Mr Robinson confirmed them as the figures in the books. The Chairman, having studied the books, had concluded that the deficit was in the region of £500, though he wished to emphasise that nobody had unlawfully 'run
off with the money' although, it was alledged, by some, that there had been mis-management by those in charge.
However, Mr E Stevens 39, who spoke at the meeting, appears to have grasped the key error in the accounting priciples that had been used over the years, where the
Society had valued its mortgage assets as the total that would be repaid over time which had the effect of anticipating profits. These 'profits' had, over time, justified the repayment of members deposits which, in turn. caused
the clearly visible deficit they were then faced with. He gave a telling demonstration of the problem by quoting the figures behind his own mortgage, perhaps one of the Society's largest, on which he owed £700-£800. But, it was
included in the balance sheet at £1,656 being the total abount he would pay over the full term of the mortgage. If, however, he paid it off now, only the current balance would be due leaving a balance in the books of around £900
that would never be payable. He contended that the method had been wrong from the beginning and that Mr Kirkland had simply followed his predecessors and the present position was the inevitable eventual result.
After much discussion, the meeting agreed to place the Society in the hands oftwo trustees (W Robinson, the present Secretary and Mr F Stokes, a Nottingham Chartered Accountant. They were to be supported by a committee made up
of Mr E Stevens, Harry Price and Mr H Charlton. They were tasked with providing a recommendation within 28 days and to present it to a public meeeting 40. This, it
seems was achieved, and the Society ceased its operations. It was an unfortuate end to a brave experiment which had provided a useful service over the 31 years it had operated.
After the early success of the Imperial Park development, a group of individuals, led by some who had been leaders in that initiative, was looking for another, similar investment opportunity, and one that would further advance the
provision of housing in Beeston. The obvious place to look for land was to the north of St Johns Grove and Imperial Park where there was a large area of open, arable land. Bounded on the east by Wollaton Road and to the north by
a track that is now Bramcote Drive. It was then owned by George Fellows, the latest in that family who owned and lived at Belle Vue, the large home on the high ground to the north. This house and the land down to Bramcote Drive
is now Beeston Fields Golf Club 41.
It was the grandfather of George Fellows, John Fellows (1756-1823), a wealthy Nottingham silk merchant who, when on a visit to Stapleford was impressed by the view over Beeston towards the Trent valley that he saw while walking in
the area of what is now Beeston Fields golf club. As a result, the family began to purchase land in the area, and this was eventually to take in not only the land that has already been described but that to the north that is now
the golf course. John Fellows founded Fellows & Hart, a private bank that had its offices on Bridlesmith Gate in Nottingham 42 that was also to involve other family
members, including his son John’s son, Alfred Thomas (1790-1862) and, in turn, his son George (1845-1923). It was Alfred who had built the grand house – named “Belle Vue” to celebrate the view that had attracted his father to the area
- completed in 1837, using bricks made on site.
At the time of Alfred Thomas death in 1862 43, his property, on which Bellevue stood, extended as far as what is now Bramcote Drive and was left in trust for his
three sons – Henry 44, John and George – as tenants in common. In 1866, the brothers were able to extend the property southwards when they purchased a group of four
parcels of arable land, totalling some 35 acres which they purchased from John Watson and Francis Butcher Gill 45. In 1873, John died, leaving his share equally to his
two brothers. Both married and included their respective wives as joint tenants as part of their marriage settlement 46. George was given the option that he could buy
out his brother and the trust’s interests in the property on payment of £10,250. In July 1880 he did so, paying £6000, having previously settled a mortgage against the property. In turn, he financed the purchase with the proceeds of a
mortgage to two barristers, possibly colleagues of Henry Fellows 47.
On 23 March 1881, George agreed to sell land that was to become the Belle Vue Land Society, to a consortium made up of the following Beeston worthies:
It included two ancient closes – ‘Nine Acres’ and ‘New Church Close’ - totalling some 20 acres for which the consortium agreed to pay £7,500 on what were, undoubtedly, attractive terms. They paid a deposit of £100 on signing, agreed
to pay a further £650 by 29 October 1881 with possession at that time. Interest of 5% per annum would apply to the unpaid balance after that date. The development would be laid out in 146 plots which would be conveyed to individual
purchasers after 25% of the overall purchase price has been paid.
- William Thornhill - the well-known Beeston tailor who had previously headed up the Imperial Park venture.
- William Millington – then the Beeston Postmaster
- Charles Stroud – a Solicitor and Clerk to the Beeston Local Board who lived in Beeston and practiced in Nottingham, who had already played an important role in the Imperial Park venture.
- Samuel Kirkby – a son-in-law of William Thornhill and Clerk to the local gas company, later its Company Secretary. He was a trustee of the Imperial Park development and an early resident there. He also served as Secretary
to the Beeston Mutual Permanent Building Society
George Fellows, who for the time being, continued ownership of the land between the land now sold and what is now Bramcote Lane, continued to live at Belle View, the family home up to 1910 when he sold up and retired
to live at Barrow-upon-Soar, Leicester. Later they moved to Hove, Sussex where George died in 1923, aged 78, followed by Emma in 1936, aged 85. They were both returned for burial in Beeston Cemetery with their youngest child, Gwendoline
Mary who had died in October 1893 aged 5 days. Their memorial survives and can be seen here.
The inaugural meeting of the Beeston Belle Vue Freehold Land Society was held on 12 November 1881 at the White Lion Inn, Beeston. It was agree that its objectives were the purchase of an estate at Beeston and the sub-division of that
estate into 'allotments' (i.e.buiding plots) and roads as shown on the plan and the division of allotments amongst members. Two Trustees were appointed:
A typical plot of 600 square yards, priced at 1s 7½d (about 8½p) per yard would cost £48 15s (£48.75). A deposit of £3 5s (£3.25)
would be required with the balance of £42 10s (£42.50) payable at the rate of 7s 11d (about 40p) per month with interest at 5%. Expenses would be payable extra, per month. Some of the plots were larger than this typical plot - particularly
corner plots which were often 900 square lots and would therefore have a correspondingly higher price. Taken overall, therefore, the total expected from selling all plots at these prices would equate simply to the price paid. In reality, as
the report of the meeting shows, the plots were sold at auction and commanded a substantial premium. It seems that this was an important component of the business model that would have existed in each of the three similar developments that we have
- James Butler, of Beeston, surgeon, who we have seen involved with both St Johns Grove and Imperial Park
- Francis Wilkinson, of Beeston, the well known lace manufacturer who built Anglo Scotian Mills and, at his height, was then the biggest maker of lace curtains, possibly in the world.
Another interesting aspect of the allocation of the acquired land was the apparent apportioning of the whole east side of Montague Street as well as the two corner plots on Park Street, either side of Cromwell Road. to "Thornhill and Others". None
of this land was included in the numbered plots and it seems possible that it was used as a bonus to the organisers of the scheme. Certainly, it is known that William Thornhill built houses on some of this land. The distinctive style he tended to use,
which includes ornately plastered roof gable ends, can still be seen there today.
Through the centre of the development, running roughly east to west, is Enfield Street. In parallel, marking the southern and northern boundary respectively, were Park Street and Dennison Street. Across their western end was Hope Street and across
the easter and was Montague Street, which also connected to a number od existing streets - Broughton Street, Middleton Street, Clinton Street and the earlier part of Dennison Street - that were the result of earlier development by John Watson and
Francis Butcher Gill that we have already touched on. Parrallel to Hope Street was Hartington Street, a continuation of what was then Cromwell Street in Imperial Park. Both were later renamed as Cromwell Road. Also crossing the development was
Bramcote Road, a continuation from a road that was then of the same name in St Johns Grove. Like there, it was required to run at a slight angle, following approximately the path of the ancient path to Bramcote. Both Hope Street and Bramcote Road provided
for possible future extension to the north in the future. Similarly, Park Street and Dennison Street anticipated future extension into Chilwill to the West.
The general meeting. of members (see right), held just days after the inaugural meeting, again at the White Lion, was chaired by Mr Cresswell, then the President of the Society. The main business was the auctioning of Belle Vue plots
which, it it is clear was very well received. It was reported 48 that some £1,600 in premiums was paid over the basic price. Thus, as about 30 plots were sold on that date, the
actual price paid per plot was around twice the basic price. The venture was clearly an initial success and one that continued over the next few months. In the first two weeks, some 58% of the plots were sold, after six weeks, 78% and essentially all
were sold by the end of March 1882. Not surprisingly, many of the subscibers were clearly buying for investment but there were also quite a few, often long standing local people, who took the opportunity to buy a building plot in what promised to be a
smart neighborhood, perhaps away from the aging housing that they had previously had to endure - helped by a relatively more properous and confident working environment. It certainly wasn't long before the roads were laid out and serviced and houses began
to appear on the development, such that, as can still be seen by the dates on many of the the houses today, within little more than twenty years it had been largely populated and the fully built-up and had become the continuingly popular location we know today.
Details of the layout of the development and the original subscribers for the plots can be seen HERE
These relatively large and succesful developments were underway and in the years that followed, up to the Great War, several smaller but simarly attractive iniatives got underway. One of those was the Grange Avenue development which we described some
time ago and can be seen HERE. Built in 1894/5, this created Grange Avenue itself, in the grounds of The Grange, with 10 semi-detached houses, a substantial detatched house, a cottage in the
grounds of the The Grange itself as well as the two houses backing on to Chilwell Road to the east of the site where the Methodist Church was later built. This pair of houses were, more recently, converted to incorporate doctors' surgeries.
Whilst William Fletcher, who built the Grange Avenue development, was not the owner, he did go on to add significant iniatives of his own over the next decade or so - and with some success. These were centred around what was none originally as New Lane at
the eastern end of the village core, that was to become Humber Road. His earlier building projects there were at the southern end, on the eastern side, near to Queens Road and tended to be basic housing for workers at the nearby Humber Cycle works. In the
event. the site of this housing was soon taken over for factory use as the production facilities were extended. But, during the first decade of the new century, Fletcher opened up a development, further to the north. off Humber Road, which still bears
his name today - Fletcher Road - where it is likely that the houses, on the north side at least, were built by him, up to his early death, aged only 51, in January 1908.
Work continues on a section to describe other housing development in the years up to the Great War. In particular, this will describe the growth of housing for working families that were built around the factories that emerged during that time.
Council Housing - When the Great War effectively came to an end in November 1918, there was a collective sigh of relief and a determination that better days might now emerge. It had been a long four years of terrible personal loses and everyday life had been focussed
totally on supporting the war effort and survival – both collective and personal. The price had been high and now the population was looking for a better life and better and affordable housing was high on the list of needs for many. – such that Lloyd
George’s Government soon took up the challenge under the slogan “Homes for Heroes”.
In 1919, the Government passed a Housing Act – known as the Addison Act – which required local authorities to provide houses which, in turn, were subsidised by central government. These ‘council houses’, built to standards defined within the legislation
– and still readily identifiable today – soon began to appear all over the country. The prescribed standards were known as the Tudor Walters standards produced by a Parliametary Committee of that name in November 1918. They were to set the standards for council
house design fot the rest of that century and envisaged well spaced-out homes, each with a living room, a scullery, larder, bathroom (sometimes part of the scullery) and WC with a minimum of three berooms, all with specified minimum sizes. An alternative
added a parlour as a second living room with correspondingly larger bedroom sizes.
In Beeston there had been a decade that had seen a virtual standstill in house building despite a 10% increase in its population, the turmoil of war and the subsequent return to civilian life by soldiers and sailors looking for and expecting the better
life they deserved, it is not surprising that the two decades between the wars years had a heavy focus on house building in Beeston, as elsewhere.
Locally, it was the resposibility of the local council - Conservative-controlled for some time but recently with a reduced majority - to satisfy the local housing needs using the powers and resources that legislation allowed and it set out to address its
new responsibilies conscientiously but perhaps not without some trepidation. Familiar as they were with managing the pennies for the ratepayer, now they were required to borrow and spend relatively large sums which, in the main, did not come naturally and
needed to be justified by results. The detail of the decision making was delegated to the Council's Housing Committee which was ably assisted and advised by the appropriate Council's officers, including the Clerk (W H Redgrave) and Surveyor (G F Walker).
Quite properly. the make up of the Committee reflected the political balance of the newly elected Council of its nine members, five, which included the Chairman, were Conservative, one was Liberal and three were Labour councillors who had recently been elected
for the first time. This overall majority of one for the controlling group was in line with that in the Council as a whole (8:3:4). Happily, all were able to work together to provide the resulting new homes that were so urgently required.
So it was that the Committee, led by its then Chairman, Everett Stevens, began its important task in a diligent and energetic manner. Stevens had been born in New Lenton, Nottingham in 1867 and had had a varied early career with many setbacks, each of which he
had addressed in a positive and determined way. Eventually, as a seven year apprentice in the lace industry, he had been able to gain a thorough knowledge of the trade. After this he had been let go but. after finding his way to Beeston, he had been introduced
to William Stevenson at Neville's Factory in Chilwell who had given him a new start as a lace draughtsman. Later he had entered into partnership with Jack Richmond, offering a designing and drafting service to the lace trade and built it into a lucrative
business by dedicated work with long hours, always with a positive attitude. In 1914 he had been elected to Beeston Council when his position at the top of the poll reflected his popularity and it was by around this time he was also established as a lace manufacturer
in what had been the Humber works in Beeston. He had clearly shown just the work ethic and positive attitute that was needed to address the acute housing issues in Beeston and he set about addressing them in a dedicated and urgent way.
The first requirement was to determine the size of the problem and a subsequent survey showed that although there were 3024 existing houses in Beeston, a further 289 were urgently required to meet the existing and growing demand for a home. Happily, in contrast
to some areas - particularly more urban areas - the number of existing dwellings that were unfit was small, quantified as the equivalent of 11 homes by the Council's Medical Officer. There was a total of three vacant houses on Church Street and William Street (then
off Middle Street) which he felt able to discount. He did however identify groups of back-to back housing also on William Street (14 homes) and on Villa Street (8 homes) - 22 in total - although he was able to advise that these could be renovated by joining each pair
into one home. This then equated to the total of 11 that needed replacement. Accordingly, the Council was thought to have an overall requirement of 300 homes which its Housing Committee set out to address. Over time, this was to be found to be an under-estimation.
Next, there was a need to find suiable sites and, in May 1919, Stevens was already able to report that a number of such sites had been inspected during the last month and that two sites were considered suitable for the first stage :
Land on the ancient Lenton Abbey Estate which was believed to be suitable for 61 houses. This was situated at the top of Marlborough Road that had itself been opened up, relatively recently, for private housing.
In each case, the site owners had been approached and active contact was expected to be underway within two weeks. In the event, negotiations with Sir Dennis' lawyers continued until October 1919 when Stevens was able to report to the Committee that agreement on terms had been
verbally agreed and that contracts could be completed after Sir Dennis' return from France. The Surveyor also submitted plans for the developments and, subject to a few amendments, it was agreed that they be submitted to the Divisional Commissioner for agreement.
Land owned by Sir Henry Dennis Bayley, towards the northern end of Wollation Road, opposite what was then BelleVue, originally the home of the Fellows family but then that of the Bowden family (and is now the Golf Club). The proposed parcel of land itself was
then occupied by Frettingham's nursery gardens and was consided to be suitable for accomodating 178 houses. Sir Dennis - who later added the family name 'Readett' to become Sir Henry Dennis Readett-Bayley, was born in Lenton in 1878, the son of Thomas Bayley. the Lenton
leather merchant who beme a colliery owner and, later, the Liberal Member of Parliament for Chesterfield and his wife Annie, the daughter of Henry Farmer, the well-known Nottingham musician. In 1903, Henry had married Audrey Cecil Turney, the daughter of Sir John Turney,
the leather manufacturer. Following his father's death in 1906, they had settled in the family home at Lenton Abbey from where Henry had taken effective control of the family estate, much of which was in Lenton and Beeston, and had taken over as Managing Director of Digby
Colliery Company (Eastwood & Gedley Collieries) and a Director of Manners Colliery Comany (Ilkeston Collieries) and had interests in Renshaw Iron Company and Smith Brothers (a brass foundary). During the Great War, he had volunteered at the start and had been assigned to the General
Service Corps, attached to the Red Cross, and had gone on to become the founder and organiser of the Dennis Bayley Fund for the transport of men wounded in France which went on to raise £700,000, mainly contributions from British coal owners and miners, which provided motor
ambulances, hospital boats and other equipment which had saved many lives. He had risen to the rank of Lt-Colonel and was Knighted in 1918, in recognition of his work during the war.
As it turned out though, the Council first needed to counter a move by Nottingham City, which proposed to take over Beeston - as well as Carlton and Arnold and surrounding Parish areas. This was an idea that has arisen several times over the years and has always been fiercely
contested by Beeston where, in the main, the determination for independence and wish to govern itself was, and is, very strongly held. Interestingly, one of the issues, even then, was whether Nottingham trams should run to Beeston - an issue that was to arise again in more
recent times. At an Inquiry held in February 1920, Beeston Council, supported by several local industrialists - including Everett Stevens - and others, put a compelling case to remain independent, a position that was upheld for the time being. Nottingham ambitions were, however,
to continue and, after similar proposals some ten years later, Beeston had to accept some adjustment to its western boundary, an issue that will be discussed, in context later.
Then, in May 1920, there was another round of elections for Beeston Council and, for whatever reason, Stevens chose not to stand for election. There was, however, a significant newcomer, as we will see, when Mrs Littlewood was elected - in fact, topped
the poll. At a subsequent meeting of the Council, the Housing Committee was reformed, comprising all members of the Council. Councillor Arthur Edward Nevett - well respected as a very conciencous Councillor - was appointed Chairmen. In everyday Beeston life, he was very well known,
along with his wife. as they operated the confectionary shop, then prominently positioned in the row of gabled shops, on the High Road, at the corner of Villa Street - which can be seen clearly in the image on our home-page.
So it was that, in June 1920, Nevett was able to report to the Council that everything was in place for the purchase of the land from the Bayley Trustees and that the £4,700 price was to covered by a 80-year loan from the Government scheme, that tenders for building 56 houses on the
land were being sought and that these were likely to require a further loan of upwards of £56,000. By October, this step in the process was complete and there was a ceremony, attended by all the Councillors, when the Chairman formally laid the foundation stone of the first house to
be built. He was presented with a silver trowell by John H Brough, whose locally-based building firm had been awarded the contract. It seemed that there was at least a glimmer of hope that the 'Homes for Heroes' were beginning to be a reality. Certainly, the landscape, as can be seen
below, was beginning to change as a result.
This image, from about 1920, shows the area at the top of Wollaton Road viewed from Derby Road, where a small group of local folk, probably in their 'Sunday-best', appear to be waiting for a bus to take them towards Derby. One holds a bunch of flowers, possible a gift from his
garden for his mother. Almost everything around them is as it had been for years. On the right side of Wollaton Road, the roof of the cemetery chapel shows above the trees and marks the position of the cemetery (opened in 1886) and, on the higher ground, a trace of
Belle Vue, the big house that had been built for the Fellows family in the 1830s. But, on the high ground, beyond the open fields on the left, something new has recently appeared to change the rural setting - new council housing that has recently been built, along the line of
what is now Farfield Avenue, the beginning of the Beeston Fields Estate that promised to provide much wanted homes for the growing population, each with a garden back and front. Over the next twenty years, the whole of this scene would be overtaken by urban development.
Early in 1921, with the housing project now well on its way, there was another change of Chairman of the Housing Committee when Eleanor Littlewood took over the position. Mrs Littlewood, had been elected to the Council as a Conservative councillor and her energy, positive manner
and life-long interest in welfare issues had already been evident. In 1925 she was to be elected as the first female Chairman of Beeston Council. She was born in 1879 at The Willows, Beeston, the daughter of Francis Usher Waite. Her father died when she was only two and her mother then
married James Butler, the respected and long standing local surgeon who lived at Manor Lodge, opposire the Manor House on Middle Street, Beeston. In 1899, she married Arthur Birkin Littlewood, a solicitor who practiced in Beeston but she was widowed in 1923. Except as a baby and
for a short period early in her married life, Manor Lodge was to be her home and she went on to open part of it as a children's clinic, a forerunner of the more formal clinic on Dovecote Lane she was later able to facilitate. In 1937, she was to receive the MBE for her dedicated
work for the Beeston community. She died in 1962.
Now with responsibility for housing, she soon made her mark. In February, the Council had received permission to accept a tender to build 10 more non-parlour Houses at £776 0s 6d each, along with 12 'parlour' houses at £918 11s 9d each - the latter style had two ground-floor
living rooms but were generally in the minority in the development as a whole. The committee recommendation of a weekly rent of 10/6d (about 52 pence) per week (plus rates) was accepted by the Council. It was also reported to the committee that a few of the families on the
waiting list had between 8 and 10 children and that the houes already built or planned were not suitable for that size of family. According, it was agree to request the Housing Commissioner to change those presently under consideration to include between 2 and 4 houses with more
bedrooms than standard.
Alongside the building activities on Farfield Avenue, progress was also being made on the site at the top of Marlborough Road where Hetley Road (named after Hetley Pearson, who had done so much to make the Boys Brigade an important part of Beeston life before his death in the Great War)
was taking shape and, in November 1921, it was reported that the Housing Commissioner had given permission for the Council to request tenders for a further 16 houses there.
As the busy year of 1921 came to an end, the Committee, Council and Officers, as well as the builders, could reflect that a reasonable start had been made to respond to the urgent need to provide affordable housing in Beeston. And, they may have been particularly cheered to read the
letter from 'Rambler' that appeared in the South Notts Echo on 9 July 1921 (Shown Right) which also praised the appearance of the houses that had been built.
Notwithstanding, all this generally good news and progress for some, the mood, the market and the corresponding guidelines from central government were about to change, driven, in turn, by political change and the economic realities that were such a tragic feature of the 1920s. During
that difficult time, Central Government changed five times - in 1932, Lloyd George's Liberal/Conservative coalition fell apart, it was followed, in quick succession, by Bonar Law and Stanley Baldwin (both Conservative) and Ramsey MacDonald (the first Labour Government). Then, in 1924,
Baldwin returned for a full term of five years, replaced in 1929 by a return of Ramsey MacDonald for a similar full term. Inevitably. the changes were reflected in each Government's policies relating to housing. In particular, Government grants for Council Grants varied over the years
as did the concept of paying grants for private builds.
The original Housing and Town Planning Act of 1919 - known as the Addison Act - had a national target of building 500,000 council houses as 'Homes for Heroes' to be delivered by local authorities - but an actual total of only just over 213,000 (43%) was achieved. This shortfall could be
put down to the need to spend time preparing schemes, acquiring land and a genersl shortage of labour and materials. Beeston's performance, so far - about 110 completed against a target of 300 (about 37%) - compared reasonably with these national figures. The Housing Act, 1923 - known
as the Chamberlain Scheme - was to change significantly the options available to Councils and was to have a significant effect on their housing decisions as grants for Council housing were discontinued and grants for private builds were offered. Nationally, 431,000 homes were build under this
scheme, of which 346,000 were private builds.
Tenants too were seeking lower costs and their partition to the Council for lower rents received a positive response when, in December 1922, it was agreed that rents were to be reduced to 10 shillings (50p) per week for 'parlour;' houses and 8 shillings (40p) for non-parlour, plus rates in each case.
Beeston Council was to embrace all aspects of the 1923 legistration and, with building costs on the decline, it was able to obtain much lower prices for the houses it added to the estates that it had under development while also offering £100 grants for private home builds. In fact, there had
already been clear signs that building prices were under downward pressure when, in March 1922, tenders for a further 16 houses on Farfield Avenue had come in at £500 with further negotiations expecting a figure of £450 - close to half the price it had been paying only a year previously. In August
1922, the Beeston builder, Richard Whiting, started work on the final phase of Farfield Avenue (taking in part of Farfield Grove) at a price of £672 for each pair of houses. This pressure on prices, was certainly good for the Council - which, in the circumstances, was happy to continue building
even without a grant from central government. The building trade, however, under continual price pressure, undoubtedly found this difficult. In November 1923, local builder William Fletcher, was unable to go ahead with an 18 house contract, citing shortage of labour and a tender from Richard
Whiting was accepted, equating to £5,592 - about £349 for each of the 16 houses. Clearly encouraged, the Council agree to seek tenders for another 16 houses. In December 1923, the Government sanctioned grants of £100 to private builders of 30 or more houses.
However, in January 1924, the national political picture changed again after Baldwin lost the support of the House and Ramsey MacDonald, the Labour leader, was invited to form what was the first Labour Government. It was to survive for only 10 months but, during that time, it put in place a
new Housing Act, known as The Wheatley Scheme, after its architect, the Minister of Health, John Wheatley. Designed to boost municipal housing and to help replace slums and substandard housing for the benefit of the underprovileged. Once again, it introduced subsidies for housing built and managed
by local councils. Although it did not support the private housing subsidy, the 1923 Act that did remained available to Councils who wished to use it. Significantly, Beeston's Conservative-controlled Council did continue to assist private building, while continuing with its council house
building programme - a position that was heavily contested by the minority group of Labour Counillors. Both Acts continued to be available after the fall of the Ramsey MacDonald Government in November 1924, and the formation of the Conservative Goverment of Stanley Baldwin.
So it was that progress on the Council's council house estate continued alongside private house buiding, encouraged by grant subsidies for relatively small, reasonably affordable homes. In September 1924, it was noted by the Council that its target of 100 subsidised private house builds was likely
to be exceeded and it went on to put a value limit of £600 on houses eligible for grant and. later that year, a minimum plot-size of 300 square yards was enforced for eligible two-storey homes. By November 1924, plans were in place to open up another street - Wallett Aveue, between Hetley Road to near the end of
Farfield Avenue - which was named after William Wallett the well-known Victorian entertainer, known as 'The Queen's Jester' who had lived out his later years in Beeston. Tenders were invited for four houses on Wallett Avenue, 14 on Hetley Road and 4 on
Farfield Grove, the small cul-de-sac off Farfield Avenue. In December 1924, planning permission was granted, with subsidy, for a pair of private-build homes on Wallett Avuene, marking a small relaxation in policy by the sale of building plots on the council house estate.
A piece in the local newspaper in May 1925 summarised the Council's progress to-date, suggesting that the 124 Council houses it had build so far meant that, although perhaps Beeston could not boast of "superhuman efforts" to solve the housing problem, it had displayed enterprise in having that many dwellings
so far and the old Frettingham nursery gardens had been transformed beyond recognition - and it would not be long before the houses joined up to Marlborough Road. Some, however, would compare Beeston's 124 with, for instance, the 244 by the Council at Carlton. Houses built in Beeston by private enterprise
with subsidy had received every encouragement from the Council and had numbered 100 - compared with 154 in Carlton. It observed that the demand for housing was still greater than the supply and it was hoped that building would continue. In the following month, it seems, the Council indicated that that was
indeed its policy when it announced that a new road, to be called Central Avenue, was to be laid-out, which, for the time-being was to connect the north end of Wallett Avenue with Clifford Avenue - which was named after John Clifford the Baptist Minister with
Beeston origins who campaigned tirelessly for non-demoninational education. In May 1928 enders were requested for 12 further homes on Clifford Avenue, six on Hetley Road, three on Wallett Avenue and two on Central Avenue. And, in July it signalled its commitment to a balanced policy, supporting council housing alongside
private builds when it strongly supported its decision to continue to use the 1923 Housing Act - which offered lower council house grants but continued support for private builds - despite strong opposition from the minority Labour members. In September 1925, a tender from H T Rice for £9.769 was accepted
for building a further twenty houses on Marlborough Road, Hetley Road and Clifford Avenue.
By 1926, Beeston as a whole was facing a perhaps unexpected challenge which took in housing, education and boundary issues head-on, when the City Council acquired the ancient Lenton Abbey Estate for its own housing purposes. There was direct access from the Beeston Fields Estate from a continuation of Hetley
Road that became Wensor Avenue when it crossed into Lenton Abbey. Somewhat bizarly, a large section of the land lay within Beeston's boundary and 440 of the total of 883 houses would be in Beeston, a complication that Beeston was required to deal with until the boundary was eventually redefined in 1932.
In the meantime, this aplit in responsibilies lead to many complications. Although responsibity for the houses and infrastructure was in the hands of the City Council, those residents who were living in the section that was still part of Beeston were on the electoral roll in Beeston and, although they
paid their rent to Nottingham, they paid their rates to Beeston. Schooling was a huge problem as, apart from the problem that the City did not have nearby schools, Beeston's schools were also a long walk away, for children in the Beeston estate as well as those in the City estate. This latter issue had to be
addressed urgently and a temporary school was built on the site at the end of Hetley Road that later became the site of a church. Planning and building of a new school, Beeston Fields School. began immediately and it opened in September 1932, on a site in
Beeston between what is now Boundary Road and Central Avenue and catered for children of all ages from both estates. The fact that the children from the respective estates were resident in two different education jurisdictions gave ongoing problems
that persisted for many years.
In May 1928, a tender of £15,485 (£368 each) by G T Rice. a local building contractor, for a further 42 of houses on the Beeston Fields Estate was accepted with the stipulation that they were to be completed by the end of September.
Beeston Fields Housing Estate - the building firms that made it happen|
Hofton - this Beeston-based building firm had its beginnings with Levi Hofton who was born in Ilkeston, Derbyshire in about 1817, the son of James Hofton, a colliery overlooker, and his wife Ann (née Jackson). He became a carpenter and, after his marriage to Jane Gamble in Ilkeston in 1841,
he moved to Beeston where they set up home on Villa Street and, by 1846, he had set up in business as a carpenter and undertaker (the latter often being a carpenter's sideline in that era) and, by 1851, he was employing two men. He died at the comparitively young age of 59 in 1870 leaving a modest estate. The
couple had five children and their eldest son, Robert Gammble Hoften, born on 1848, was to carry on and develop the business, having married Emily Giles in 1870 and set up home and his business base at 5 City Road, Beeston. The couple had four children, again including two sons, and it was again the eldest,
Henry Robert Hofton, born in 1876 that was to lead the business forward, developing it into a fully rounded building contracting business. In 1891 he married Florence Mary Griffiths. the eldest daughter of Arthur Richards, a Newark bookseller and his wife Emily (née Giles) and went on to have two sons, both
of whom took a full part in the progress of business, including its important contribution to the building of Beeston Fields Estate in the 1920/30s. Sadly, their eldest son Henry Rex Hofton (b. 1903) died in March 1931, aged only 27. In 1936, the company was incorporated,as Hofton & Son Limited, likely not only as
a more appropriate business structure but also as a practical means of defining ownership within the family and with others. By that time, Henry Robert had established the company as a serious player as a building contractor that was going from strength to strength, making a massive contribution to the development
of Beeston, quite apart from its involvement at Beeston Fields. The pre-WorldWar2 years also saw the company involved throughout the wider Beeston area where it built many of the new private housing developments including - as can be seen in the advert (right) from that era - in the popular 'Lake District' area (Windermere Road and surrounding roads), houses on Derby Road
and in the Fellows Road area, beside many more. The pre-war years also saw progress in commercial and public sector building in which the company played its full part - possibly more than its full part - with its local projects including a new Barton's Administrative building (1934), Beeston Town Hall (1938), Beeston
Library (1939) and, on a sadder note, as war again arrived, air-raid shelters for Beeston schools. The company itself opened a woodworking mill in Roberts Yard, Beeston and had a office on Regent Street, Beeston. Both have been demolished and redeveloped for residential use in recent years. On the personal level,
Henry Robert had developed a strong reputation as a keen bowls player and he and his wife had moved to live in a house they built at 22 Elm Avenue, Beeston. Then, in 1938, they decided to retire to live in Skegness. Florence died there in 1951, aged 75, followed, in 1954, by Henry Robert, aged 78. After his parents
had moved to Skegness, the company was in the overall management of their son, Harold Griffith Hofton. Harold had been born in October 1908 in Chilwell and had married Muriel Watts in 1934. To strengthen the company's management, John Richard Shouler was appointed as a Director. Born in 1913, the son of a Melton Mowbray
auctionier and estate agent, he had joined Hoftons in 1929 as a joiner and had since demonstrated his abilities and worth to the company and was to go on to assist Harold through the war years and the challanging years beyond, when, in the event, the company was to make great strides in the speculative housing market, with
housing the company built on and around Hillside Road on the Beeston/Bramcote border playing a large part in theie success. After Harold's death in 1986, his son John Harold Hofton (b. 1936). continued in the management role alongside John Richard Shouler but sadly died in 1989, aged only 53. Now with the Hoftom male line
at an end, the company continued in the hands of others, notably the Shouler family. Today, it no longer operates directly as a builder but offers its expertise in construction project management.
George Thomas Rice was born in Beeston in 1884, the son of the bricklayer, Henry Rice and his wife Elizabeth. George followed his father into the trade. In 1907, he married Alice Brailsford (1887-1978) and they went on to have three children. As his career progressed, he was able to develop his skills into a successful domestic
building business, going on to build houses throughout the district including, as we will see, many that for the Council's social housing programme. He developed a business base on Cyprus Avenue, Beeston and built a number of houses there as well as the row of five shops, round the corner on Wollaton Road. He also built
158 Wollaton Road, the bungalow next to the entrance to the alloments where he lived with his family up to his death in i979. It will be remembered by many local residents for the large bird figures on the top of its gate posts. He took an active part in several aspects of Beeston life - in the dancing community, especially
as a Master of Ceremonies at regular dance events held at the Embassy Dance Hall on Station Road, as a keen bowls player and as an officer, sometimes Chairman, of the local Conservative Association.
John H Brough - the story of the well-known Beeston builder who built the firstbatch of houses on the estate, will appear here shortly
By 1929, faced with the continuing demand for council housing and with the remaining space at Beeston Fields dwindling, the Council began to look for more land throughout Beeston as a whole and, after acquiing a parcel of land beween Queens Road and the railway. it was able to expand what had been the existing Alexendra Road to
loop back to Queens Road, to become Alexandra Crescent. In April 1029, it accepted a tender, again from G T Rice, to build 60 houses for £19,490 (£323 for each house) on the site.
This brought the total houses built by the Council over the 10 years since it had started building after the end of the Great War, to a total of 291 homes Whilst this compared reasonably with it original target of 300 - based on its then estimate of need, the demand continued as stongly as ever, driven by incomers and the
greater need for replacement of sub-standard housing. Whilst private housing supply had developed well and continued to grow, it was time to reassess and to plan for the ever-growing demand for affordable housing for working families. Accordingly, in November 1929. the Council acted decisively by agreeing to purchase 20
acres of land, known as Beeston Fields Farm, which adjoined the site of Farfield Avenue, to the north and extended up to Derby Road. It included a relatively small area of just over two acres that the Council reserved for a future cemetery extension. The overall cost was £14,500 which had been reduced from £14.600 because
of a 'certain charge' 71 on the land. Although the outer margins of the land on Derby Road and the northern end of Wollaton Road were sold to the builder, H R Hoften. for private housing and, similarly. the north end of Central Avenue was sold to another private building firm, Messrs West & Cross, the majority of the land was
soon taken up for Council use with just over nine acres proposed as the site of what is now Dennis Avenue and Anderson Crescent, designated as the site of 120 additional council houses. A start was made in January 1931 when a tender by G T Rice Co. Ltd was accepted, to build 28 houses on Wollaton Road, Anderson Crescent and
Dennis Avenue was accepted for a total of £8,930 (£319 per house). In April 1932. Hofton Builders were awarded a contract for a further 65 houses for £18,850 (£290 per house) in a new part of the estate (probably Boundary Road), with James Thraves given the street works for £805.
Remarkably - but perhaps not when one realises that even the town offices were still lit by gas - in 1932, 290 council houses (essentially all of them) were without an electricity supply. Accordingly, the Council agreed to add electic lighting to them. Following a survey of he tenants, 230 agreed to pay 4 pence a week each to recover
the installation cost - which was estimated to be about £7 per house. The work went ahead and was actually about £6 per dwelling.
As is well known, the early 1930s generally, were extremely difficult economically, both nationally and at the personal level - though conditions locally, hard as they often seemed, were not as bad as other parts of the country. Nevertheless, the generally bad conditions had been seen clearly in the squeeze in building costs and
it is not surprising that pressure began to develop for a corresponding decrease in rents, particularly as this came at a time when there was a
need to rehouse residents who were then being displaced by a drive to demolish areas of sub-standard housing that had developed in the older parts of Beeston. In 1934 alone, areas that were demolished or made subject to requiring necessary repairs included the notorious Willam Street - that had been hotly discussed for many months - Roberts
Yard, Alpine Cottages, Prince of Wales Terrace, Nether Street, Regent Street, parts of Queens Road and Broughton Street - where rents would have been substantially less that those being paid by Council tenants and for the new private sector houses that were being built, albeit for much better accomodation. In the Council election in 1932, Father Hays, Beeston's popular and well-respected
Roman Catholic Priest, was a candidate at the local election in 1932 and was elected, as a Conservative. Surprisingly, he displaced the popular and respected Eleanor Littlewood. By 1934, he had taken over as Chairman of the Housing Committee and was energetic in campaigning for lower rents that would be more affordable by those being displaced
from the areas of substandard housing that were being demolished. There were still 600 persons on the housing waiting list, 300 of whom were already living in Beeston, the remainder mainly those working there but living elsewhere. In response, a further 50 houses were sanctioned in a newly-developed area between Central Avenue and Boundary Road
that became Burrows Avenue, Burrows Crescent (named after Councillor George Burrows 75) and Boundary Crescent. To attempt to address the affordability issue, all the houses were the non-parlour type and twelve of them had just two bedrooms. Four were built with four bedrooms to
provide for larger families, the 34 remainding having the usual three bedrooms. Hofton's tender price of £13,425 (£268 per house) was accepted in November 1934. Including the road cost, the total cost was £16,630 such that the Council was able to offer the homes at an average of weekly rent of 9/3d (about 47p) including rates. Plans were put in place for a further 32 houses.
In 1934, an area of 7.41 acres of land on the estate was allocated as a recreation ground, between Central Avenue and Wollaton Road, which was to include facilities for football/cricket, a playgound, tennis courts and a bowling green. This was a further addition to the estate's supporting infrasructure that
included allotment gardens between Hetley Road and Wollaton Road, a row of ten shops each with living accommodation, built on Central Avenue between Dennis Avenue and Central Avenue, in 1931 by Whitton's Building Co Ltd. This then then quite active building firm had been able to purchase the land from the Council for about £557, as surplus to the Council's requirments.
The momentum continued in 1932 with the opening of Beeston Fields Infants and Juniors schools and a Secondary School for boys, all on a site on the estate between Central Avenue and Boundary Road. Then, in 1933, the Lenton Abbey Congregational Church was built and opened and was to serve the local community well for many years. Despite its name, it was
situated completely on the Beeston side of the Nottingham border. Then, in 1936, the Astoria cinema was opened at the corner of Boundary Road and Derby Road - which would have been particularly welcomed by those were had recently arrived in the nearby Burrows Avenue area, many of them having been displaced from the central areas of Beeston where cinemas had also been near at hand.
In 1935, the Beeston Urban District Council and Stapleford Rural District Council (which took in Bramcote, Chilwell, Toton and Stapleford) amalgamated, becoming Beeston & Stapleford Urban District Council. This meant that the Council's council housing issues and their solutions were spread over a much bigger area and would ultimately
be largely addressed over this wider horizen. For the most part, with another war coming in 1939, this meant that, although - as we will describe elsewhere - private house continued to boom in the years up to the war, further progress with Council Housing was largely on hold until peace arrived again in 1945 - when the Council again
faced an acute shortage of housing. This will be discussed in that context.
This account of housing in Beeston will be continued, to include :
- and more ...
- Workers' housing by George Wilkinson and others
- Private housing north and south of the centre in the 1920s/30s
- Housing in The Rylands
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© David Hallam - 2022