The Magazine of Lenton Local History Society

Lenton Times Issue 4 - June 1990

Society Snips

The Leen Mills

Our first speaker of the New Year was Thomas Leafe who related the story of 'The Leen Mills'. After a brief outline of the various developments in cotton spinning brought about by the likes of James Hargreaves and Richard Arkwright, we were introduced to a certain George Robinson. Born in Scotland and originally called George Robertson he had come to Nottingham in 1737 and assumed the name of Robinson. After a spell as a bleacher he went into the cotton spinning business and, with the help of his two sons, established a number of cotton mills along the Leen on the stretch of river from Papplewick to Bulwell. The waters of the Leen continued to be the power source for all Robinsons' cotton mills until 1784 when the decision was taken to install a Boulton & Watt steam engine in one mill. This was the very first time a steam engine had ever been used for this purpose.

Many of those who worked in the mills were children, employed to mind the machinery. Recruited from poor families and taken out of orphanages as far away as London, the children were often ill-treated, made to work very long hours and given a far from adequate diet. Legend has it that large numbers died and were buried in unmarked graves among the fields and in Linby churchyard. Mr. Leafe suggested that the legend exaggerated somewhat, though undoubtedly a certain number of children had died while employed at the mills.

George Robinson himself died in 1798 at the age of 86 and the business was carried on by his sons James and John. Eventually the spinning mills passed into the hands of a Mr. Hopper. Raw cotton had originally come into England from the Mediterranean countries via the port of London. In the nineteenth century America became the main supplier via Liverpool. The Lancashire spinning mills were ideally placed and were able to obtain their raw material much more cheaply than the Leen mills. This made our mills unviable and Mr. Hopper ceased operations in the early 1830s. Many of the buildings were simply demolished while others were put to other uses.

Mr. Leafe showed us slides of those Robinson buildings which still stand and illustrations of some of those which are no more. At the conclusion of a most interesting evening we asked if Mr. Leafe would show the Society around the sites of the Robinson mills. This he readily agreed to do and we expect this outing will be included in next year's programme.

The Rose and Crown Again

The article on the Rose and Crown in Issue 3 brought back memories for Betty Pocklington (nee Minter). Her family initially lived at No.2 Arnesby Road and with Everard Mills' daughter, Mary in the same class it was almost inevitable they should become good friends. Betty now lives in Leicester but sent us a few recollections of the pub along with this school photo.

Photo courtesy of Betty Pocklington (nee Minter)See in Lightbox

Lenton Council School for Girls. Taken about 1932.

'Mary Mills and I were great childhood friends and I spent many happy hours across at the old Rose and Crown. I even slept there with Mary. She had a large feather bed which was a great source of amusement, and with her bedroom being over the pub we never got off to sleep very early! Initially we both went to school at a house on Derby Road near the junction with Faraday Road. But some disaster struck the head and we moved to Lenton Council School for Girls. Eventually we parted company at 11 when Mary went to the new Manning School and I took a place at Western House School on the Ropewalk. I vividly recall playing hide and seek at the pub and hiding in the large asparagus bed in the garden. We were both taught to play the piano on the one in the clubroom. In those days grandfather Mills was still alive and he would not permit you to put your hands on the table during meals. Should our hands ever touch the tablecloth his teaspoon would rapidly descend on our knuckles. Some Sundays Mary's father would take us out for afternoon tea but we could never stay out long because of the need to get back for opening time. Mary's mother had an operation for cancer just before work on the new pub began and the constant pumping as water was removed from the site did nothing to help her convalescence. Sadly she died before the building was finished'.

Betty thinks the photo must have been taken about 1932. She names three children on the second row from the front. The 9th from the left is herself, the tenth Mary Mills and the eleventh Betty Bell. The Society would naturally like to know the names of other girls in this photo from Lenton Council School. If readers recognise any faces please let us know.

* This photograph is also included on our Schools section where we have added a couple of more names. Click here for the link.

Nottingham - Past and Present

Bernard Beilby has amassed an extensive collection of photographic slides of old Nottingham. A few he took himself; the majority are copies garnered from various sources. Last February he used a small portion of this collection to take his Lenton audience on an imaginary tour of Nottingham in the second half of the last century and the first part of this century.

Many of the buildings shown on Mr. Beilby's photographs no longer exist. Even some of the roads have disappeared beneath more recent developments. Some of the properties on show cried out for demolition, especially in such areas as Narrow Marsh where some of the worst slums in the whole of England could be found. In other instances there was no such pressing need to explain why the buildings had to come down. They simply stood in the way of 'progress'. Among these were a number which Mr. Beilby felt certain would still be standing but for the connivance of their owners and the City Council of the day. He concluded a most interesting and informative evening by urging all present to be vigilant and help ensure Nottingham prevents any more buildings of merit from being demolished and lost from its townscape.

Benet May

Benet May wasn't famous. Those who now live in the Nottinghamshire villages where she once lived have probably never heard of her unless, of course, they've attended one of Jack Cupit's talks. She was just an ordinary person who lived in the late sixteenth and early part of the seventeenth century. It was only towards the end of Mr. Cupit's talk to the Society, this March, that we realised how he must first have come across her. But his researches showed him that here was an interesting story which might provide a focus for an audience while Jack discussed the background detail of how everyday folk lived at that time.

Using information extracted from her father's will and the subsequent property inventory, Jack described the sort of dwelling which Benet May grew up in and the sort of chores she would have been given by her father a 'husbandman' in the village of Halam, near Southwell. Benet May eventually moved to Upton, near Newark, when she married William Beatoffe, a humble cottager. This was something of a comedown for Benet but the discovery of the baptism of their first child, Elizabeth, only three months after their marriage, provides the clue as to why it happened. Jack even presented a probable scenario as to when and where Elizabeth's conception took place. The baptismal records show that three more children, Thomas, Ellen and Joanna were born in the next six years.

Most likely some three hundred inhabitants lived in the village of Upton in 1609 when in October of that year Anne Martin died of something the vicar described as plague. By February of the next year there had been 50 deaths. The fifty first was Benet's daughter Ellen, rapidly followed by husband William, and remaining children, Joanna, Thomas and Elizabeth. By May there had been 86 burials at Upton in the space of nine months and 1 in 4 of the villagers had died. William Beatoffe had died intestate and it wasn't until January 1611 that Benet obtained letters of administration from the court at Southwell. At this point Benet May disappears into the mists of time and Jack Cupit was forced to draw this part of his talk to a close. After the interval Jack asked the audience to look at the Beatoffe inventory and he challenged us to decipher the actual script and come up with ideas as to what some of the words meant. It all added up to a fascinating evening, much enjoyed by all who came along.

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