From 'The Lenton Listener' Issue 40
June - July 1986
From Leengate To Salt Lake
No. 4 Leengate in 1908
A little while ago Max and Yvonne Elliman at Leengate News received a small package through the post. It was simply addressed to The Occupants, No. 4, Leengate, Old Lenton, Nottingham, England. It came from a Mrs. Mary Meyer who explained that although she had lived in Salt Lake City, Utah in the USA for more than eighty years, she was originally a Lenton girl, having been born at No. 4 Leengate on March 9th 1899. She herself was unable to recall anything about the house or area, which is understandable as Mary's parents, Ralph and Lucy Wood had taken her with them when they emigrated to Salt Lake City in May 1900. Intrigued to know what her birthplace now looked like and whether in fact the house was still standing, she had been prompted to write the letter which the Ellimans received.
Realising it might make an interesting story for The Lenton Listener, Max Elliman passed Mary's letter on to us, and we wrote back. We were able to send Mrs. Meyer a copy of Issue 23, which included an article on Leengate. By way of co-incidence in 'Looking up Leengate' we had included a 1908 photograph of Mary's birthplace, which once again we reproduce here. We also checked through the various Nottingham directories on her behalf in order to compile a list of past residents. Disappointingly No. 4 Leengate did not attract the directories' attention very often. Robert Read was the only person ever to be regularly included in their listings. His entries ran from 1887 to 1895 and his trade was given as florist. The only other person to gain a mention was Arthur Tetley, a letter carrier, whose only entry appeared just once in 1908. Thereafter the occupants of No. 4 seem to have been studiously ignored by the directories.
We sent Mrs. Meyer the magazine article and such information as we could provide and in due course received a letter back. She had evidently found it all most illuminating and had sent photocopies on to relatives in the States and 'back home'. She was interested to hear of the mention of Robert Read as he was her maternal grandfather. In her original letter Mary had included photocopies of two photographs of the house and garden at No. 4 Leengate. These had originally been taken by one of Mrs. Meyer's English cousins while on a visit to Nottingham. We have no date for the photographs, but the considered opinion of various members of the Lenton Local History Group who have been shown the snapshots is that the visit to the old family home probably occurred after the Second World War, possibly in the 1950s. Mrs. Meyer arranged for proper copies of the photographs to be made and sent these on to us. The second photograph on this page is Mrs. Meyer's.
Photograph courtesy of Mary Meyers
Although the interval between the two photographs is probably almost half a century, it is apparent that only superficial changes have occurred to the building's appearance. Sadly the pleasing exterior of the house along with its mature garden were not to survive for very much longer. The major land owner in Lenton until quite recently was the Pearson-Gregory family and No. 4 Leengate was just one of the many properties which made up their estate. In the late fifties or possibly early sixties much of the Pearson-Gregory land and properties in and around the Gregory Street area came on to the market. The two main purchasers were the Nottingham Co-op and Marshall's the Lenton timber business. It is not clear which of these bought No. 4 Leengate and No. 2, the adjoining property. Whichever it was, subsequently offered the occupants of No. 2, William and Hilda Gillott, the opportunity to buy both properties off them. This the Gillotts did. It made good business sense to them, as it enabled the Gillotts, should they so wish, to enlarge the newspaper shop which they ran at No. 2.
In the early part of the 1960s many of the old properties on Leengate were demolished as part of a general clearance programme carried out by the Council. Nos. 2 and 4 were allowed to remain but not so the other shop on Leengate. This was a general grocers and its site at No. 6-8 now forms part of the car park of the Monty Hind Boys Club. The disappearance of this shop prompted the Gillotts to have a two storey extension built on the side of No.2 and with a larger shop area available downstairs start selling groceries in addition to newspapers. Another external alteration the Gillotts carried out was to cut down the Victoria plum tree which for many years had been assiduously trained to grow on the front of No. 4. They also chopped down all the fruit trees at the side of the house and used the garden area as extra parking space. The Gillotts (**) didn't actually keep both properties for very long. In the mid-1960s they decided to emigrate to Australia and sold Nos. 2 and 4 to a Mr. Ken Wells. He in turn was only resident there for a couple of years before selling out to Harvey & Robinson Ltd. Their purchase soon led to further changes.
The building in the 1970s while in the occupancy of Harvey & Robinson,
photograph taken by Harold Fillingham.
The first change was that the tenant of No. 4, Mrs. Ethel Baldock, had to leave after living there for over 50 years (her husband, Claude Baldock, is the young 18 year old standing on the right of the earlier photograph). The second change that Harvey & Robinson Ltd carried out was to have the 2 properties knocked into one. Windows and doorways were altered or removed and to hide these changes the whole of the exterior was rendered. In this way an even larger shop unit was formed, but one that lacked the charm of its earlier setting. Harvey and Robinson Ltd. was a family business which had several shops in Nottingham, including the grocery/newsagency at 357b Derby Road. Initially Mr. Robinson senior ran the Leengate premises but, on his retirement, his son Michael moved from their shop on Hartley Road in Radford and took over here. Michael continued to run the shop until 1981, when the present occupants, Max and Yvonne Elliman bought the business.
The Ellimans moved to Lenton from London, where Max had been in cinema management for the Rank organisation. Eager to stop working for someone else and start working for themselves, they had been looking for a suitable business to take over. London prices were far too expensive to contemplate, so the search led elsewhere. Nottingham was familiar territory for Yvonne as she had grown up on the Wollaton Park estate. Consequently the eventual choice was hardly a strange one. (Max incidentally hails from Dublin). They settled on the Leengate premises and have subsequently had no regrets.
Max Elliman with a customer in 1986
Even though it is not actually situated on a main road, the shop is well positioned. To start with there are all the houses in and around Gregory Street. Then there are Bell Fruit and all the other businesses situated on Leengate. In the period prior to 'clocking on' and during the lunch break, workers from these Leengate firms keep the Ellimans extremely busy. They also draw custom from people working across at Lenton Industrial Estate. There are shops closer to the industrial estate but the ease of parking alongside the Leengate shop is obviously an asset. Leengate also serves as the rear entrance to the Queens Medical Centre. Those using this route frequently stop off for the odd item which the Ellimans are happy to supply. And even if people can't get to Leengate, they can still shop with the Ellimans, courtesy of their free home delivery service.
At much the same time that Mrs. Meyer was writing from Salt Lake City, the Ellimans received a visit from another 'face' from the past. William Gillott, over on a visit from Australia, came in to have a look around. Given her age and the fact that she doesn't have any close relatives living around here, Mrs. Meyer is unlikely ever to make a similar sentimental journey back to Leengate. So if a visit isn't feasible, perhaps our article will provide her with a welcome alternative.
Courtesy of Betty Ann Robertshaw née Gillott (now living in Australia)
My parents, William and Hilda Gillott, did have the shop at 2 Leengate where I was to spend some of my formative years. However they, along with my husband and myself, did not emigrate to Australia until 1978. After leaving Leengate we lived at Sawley and my parents had a business at Beeston and after this one in Lady Bay in West Bridgford.