The Magazine of Lenton Local History Society

Lenton Times Issue 5 - February 1991

Hillside Recollections - Part 2

Born in 1903 Jack Hill was brought up at 44 Hillside, one of the houses in the terrace that used to look out on to the Nottingham Canal, now also gone. The first part of Jack Hill's recollections appeared in Issue No. 2.

Any pupil with a good singing voice who attended Lenton Boys' Church School in the early part of this century was usually sought out by the headmaster, Mr John Oldham, and encouraged to join the choir at the Priory Church. This was scarcely odd as Mr Oldham also held the post of choirmaster there. Jack Hill soon proved to be an able singer at Lenton Church School and at the age of seven found himself enlisted as a Priory choirboy. He was to remain in the choir for nineteen years only leaving when he married and moved away from Lenton. Every week there would be a choir practice for the boys on Wednesdays and then another on Fridays which the senior choristers also attended. They then all performed at the Church services each Sunday morning and evening. The Priory wasn't licensed for weddings but occasionally the choir would be asked to sing at funerals. Each quarter the boys could expect to receive a small sum, a few shillings, as reward for their regular attendance but for some reason the paymaster was always rather tardy in settling up and the choirboys often had to make patience its own virtue.

See in Lightbox
On the left of the photograph is the butcher's shop on Gregory
Street where Jack Hall was once employed as butcher's boy.
Admittedly though the photo was taken at a slightly later era.

The year's undoubted highlight for Jack would come on Christmas Eve when the choir went carol singing. Well wrapped up for the occasion and with a crisp layer of snow lying on the ground (certainly that's how it was in Jack's memory) and using lanterns to light their way they toured the area from 8 pm until midnight. The itinerary always took in the imposing residences on what is now the University campus. There the likes of W.D. Player and Thomas Shipstone would invite the carol singers in to perform in front of their guests and a little Christmas fare was handed out by way of thanks. Come the New Year the Church usually received a monetary thank you.

Jack Hill knew the 'campus' site well. His father was employed as chauffeur for J.T. Linsley, the Hull brewer who preferred to live in Nottingham at Red Court. At school Jack had become friends with the sons of the chief gardener and the chauffeur at Lenton Firs. As a result they were all given unofficial permission to play in the grounds and fields adjoining the big houses. The only proviso was that, should 'Tommy' Shipstone's car be sighted, the boys were expected to make themselves 'invisible' until he had passed by. W.D. Player was even prepared to let the boys camp out on his land. A twine merchant on Forman Street loaned them a bell tent which they lugged along the Derby Road and then pitched in a field off Beeston Lane. Happy days and nights in summer holidays were spent under canvas there, with Mrs Player delighting in dispatching snacks and drinks.

About the age of 12 Jack got a job as a butcher's boy initially for John Daft and then Tom Wright at the Gregory Street shop that now houses 'Sauna 32'. Each Friday after school and before choir practice he would go round the area collecting orders. Then the next day was spent delivering them by bicycle. In those days the orders weren't wrapped in paper, instead the pieces of meat were just piled up in the delivery basket and covered by a piece of cloth. Customers usually appeared at the door with plate in hand and the order was simply transferred from basket to plate. On one particular occasion, while crossing the canal by the wooden bridge from Leengate to Spring Close, Jack misjudged the gap between the bollards that prevented all but pedestrian traffic from using the bridge and he dislodged his basket. The raw meat was now strewn on the ground. Fearing the wrath of the butcher he put the meat back in the basket and pedalled off along Hillside to his own house. There Jack and his mother washed each portion and he was able to complete his deliveries with no-one else the wiser. The butcher killed the animals himself and Jack also had to lend a hand in the slaughter house at the back of the shop. Mainly it involved helping to bring in the animal, be it cow, sheep or pig, and then assisting in the task of keeping the beast still while the butcher dispatched it with an axe or a knife. Not the sort of thing we would ask of our modern day youth!

See in Lightbox
Looking across at the Rose & Crown from the direction of Hillside
with the River Leen in the foreground. The photograph, courtesy of
Nottinghamshire County Library Service, was probably taken in the
early years of this century.

It was the time of the First World War and everybody was helping to 'dig for victory'. There were already many hundreds of allotments spread around Lenton before the war but now there was fresh impetus to establish even more. Lenton Boys' Church School took over a portion of a field just off Spring Close and converted it into a vegetable garden. Jack was one of those selected by the headmaster to help and he worked long and hard on it. In fact he can't recall spending all that much time actually in school once the allotment arrived on the scene. The Boys' School sold off the produce (cabbage, cauliflowers, potatoes and the like) in the community and the boys even ventured into the Girls' School in the pursuit of orders! What subsequently happened to the monies raised, Jack is not sure. Possibly the money was simply put into the School funds or perhaps it was used to help the war effort in some way.

About this time Jack became a keen angler. Initially he confined himself to the canal and the 'mini-dykeĎ which carried water from the canal overflow (situated between Spring Close and Abbey Street) across the fields to Dunkirk where it subsequently re-entered the canal. But there wasn't much in the way of fish in these waters so he started going further afield. He used to walk out along Trent Lane and down to the river Trent where he could catch fair sized gudgeon. These he would bring home and give to his mother. In the evening they would appear on the dinner table and made quite a tasty meal. Where the northern part of the Queen's Medical Centre is now situated was once Thomas Suffolk's sand pit. Jack recalled Tom Topley who lived at No. 40 Hillside and who was employed by Mr Suffolk as a sandman. They quarried the moulding sand by pick and shovel and then loaded it into horse drawn carts. These they took along to Lenton Station where the sand was transferred to rail wagons for transportation to iron foundries. Jack never really ventured into the sand pit but enjoyed standing by its perimeter fence watching the sand martins which each summer colonised the cliff walls.

The sand pit was not then as extensive as it became in later years and between it and the Derby Road Jack remembers there used to be a corn field. Here Billy Woolley, a fairly simple-minded soul, was paid to walk around the field as the corn ripened shaking a wooden clapper in order to scare away wood pigeons and the like.

Jack Hill's school days finished when he reached the age of 14. Four posts at the Gas Offices had become vacant because men had left to serve King and Country, and as Albert Ball, the local councillor, was Chairman of Nottingham Corporation Gas it was thought a 'good idea' to select two boys from Lenton Council School and two boys from Lenton Church School for the positions. Jack Hill was one of those chosen and in November 1917 he commenced work as a clerk on the 'slot counter'.

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