MY LADYBROOK AS I KNEW IT
Although I was born in Tissington in Derbyshire I have lived in Mansfield from the age of 18 months. My family moved to Mansfield in 1947 first to Sherwood Hall cottages and then to Bancroft Lane in a new estate called Ladybrook. At this time my dad worked for Mansfield council as a joiner, he was working in the same block as our new home and he worked progressively further away from home as the estate grew. It was a wonderful time as the war had only ended a couple of years earlier. During the war my farther served in the royal engineers and was involved in the D day landings and the liberation of Norway. My mother worked for Rolls Royce in Ashbourne on spitfire engines .
Like my parents people were still getting over the horrendous affects and sacrifices that were made during the war. Most of the houses built at this time were to house young families and although we weren’t very well off everyone got on in those days. All off the children were about the same age and we all grew up as friends. It is an old saying that when we moved here it was all field’s but it really was. My auntie and uncle lived in a farm house it was in the area of Simpson Road several fields and over the brook from where we lived. I remember that one day three friends and myself decided to go and visit them we were only about four years old and we hadn’t told our parents. We were gone for about four hours and halfway back home we were confronted by our mothers, I can remember being confused that they were so pleased to see use we all got a smack.
There was a row of old cottages towards the bottom of Bancroft lane and I remember watching as they were demolished with a mobile crane and a huge metal ball swinging from a chain. Further down Bancroft lane there were two corner shops one on the corner of Goldsmith street and the other on the corner of Chaucer street. The co-op branch where my dad got his Bruno tobacco for his pipe from was in between. If you wanted your groceries delivered by the co-op (no supermarkets back then) they were delivered by horse and cart as were many things in the fifties. The local ice cream man had a horse drawn cart and I remember one day asking if I could have one to be told no it is unhygienic as you don’t want them when the horse as trumped in them, a funny reply but I suspect they couldn’t afford one every time he turned up near our house.
At this time coal was also delivered by a horse drawn cart and later by lorry they would tip the coal in the street near to our gate I remember helping my dad to barrow it into the coal house. On the subject of coal I remember my mum trying to light the fire and to get it to draw as she called it she would blank the fire off with a large sheet of newspaper but it very often caught fire causing her to push the newspaper back into the fire without burning her fingers. Other deliveries to your home were milk, bread and pop and a man called every week for our waste food for pigswill to feed his pigs. I recall walking down Castle street one day with my friends and my dad was fitting a road sign to two metal posts we were about three years old at the time, we shouted what’s it called, it was Davey road. The existing sign is still in the same position 70 years on and when I pass , in my minds eye I can see my dad fitting the sign.
There wasn’t any central heating in houses in the fifties, we had a coal fire in each of the down stairs rooms but has money was tight we could only afford a fire in one room with the exception of Christmas when we had a fire in the lounge for family parties. My bedroom was over an open porch and in winter I had to scrape the frost from the inside of my window to see outside, if you needed the bathroom it was a quick dash up stairs you didn’t stay there long in the cold A few years later my dad fitted a state of the art combined light and round bar heater in the bathroom but we weren’t allowed to use it except for bath nights when we could switch it on five minutes before your bath, although when I went for a wash and to clean my teeth as the fire was above the sink I would switch it on and usually got away with it.
Does anyone remember the lady in the post office on Wood street, she was a little stout lady with a unique voice I went there regularly on errands. It was my job on a Saturday night to look out for the lad selling the football post (no internet or teletext back then.) I went to Rosemary Infants School and my mum took me, she had a brisk walk and I had to run to keep up with her. On bad memory was that one morning going to school as we passed the coal merchant’s on Bancroft lane opposite to the row of cottages mentioned earlier the large gate was slightly open and I could see a horse lying on the ground, we were told later that it had an untreatable problem and had to be put down by the vet which upset me for days.
I remember the Lady Brook being piped in and recently discovered a stone in a wall at the rear of the chip shop at the bottom of Milton Street (see photo) it is engraved to say it was a stepping stone across the brook. I was taken for my first haircut kicking and screaming to the barbers shop on Belvidere street at the corner of Peacock street I think it was called Nuttall’s, for all my protest’s it wasn’t to bad but I hated the great dollop of brylcreem he massaged in you hair it held it down for days. There was a rear entrance to Rosemary School from Bancroft Lane through a gate and down an ally, the old gate appears to be still there opposite the small ASDA (see photo) if it is the original gate it is in about the same condition as me, two creaking gates together.
One strange thing at my first school was that before assembly started we were told to blow our nose to avoid sniffling during assembly, this was alright if you had remembered your handkerchief but if you hadn’t you were told of, the boys could prevent this by using their shirt sleeve. I remember the Queens coronation in 1953 we were all given a propelling pencil it was red with a gold crown on the top. For the celebrations we were in fancy dress with local themes mine was robin hood and I was a tree. I wore a long brown cloth tube with pockets all over for twigs and leaves. We marched around the market place and finished at Mansfield town football ground. I remember people saying that being dressed as a tree I would be very popular with stray dogs I hoped they were joking but I kept an eye out just in case. Moor lane was my junior school, a few things I remember are the outside toilets in the playground and a classroom across the playground separate from the main building. Mr Beazley was the headmaster and one year I was in killer Phillips class (his bark was worse than his bite) I remember that he used to suck a lot of extra strong mints. One way to school was down Spencer’s Street, there was a shop on the corner of Holden street where I bought sports mixtures four for a penny, my favourites were the black one’s but you were limited to one in every four unless the lady was in a good mood. Then through a passageway to the side of the William the fourth pub onto Sutton Road then past the bus sheds which I still call the tram sheds as my dad did just to get a reaction from the younger generation.
We played football, cricket and other games in the street in the fifties as there wasn’t much traffic back then just a bus every twenty minutes. One thing our mothers did when we were kids was as we didn’t have a watch when it was time to come in they stood outside the front door and shout your name, if they could see use we had no option but to go in however this could be used to our advantage as if they couldn’t see us we would disappear and have another hour, alright we got a telling of but it was worth for a extra hour’s freedom. I have just had another thought a mobile phone would have wrecked my childhood. Two of my friends Harry and David Starkey made a cart from old wood, pram or pushchair wheels with a piece of wood screwed to the frame to pull onto the wheel as a brake however this was pretty useless. The local run was the hill on cape street. it was a large cart so we could get three kids onto it. It was nigh impossible to make it round the corner at the bottom and knack was to full of before the cart went straight across the road. Looking back there was a certain amount of luck to survival in these games.
We spent most of the summer holidays and light night’s playing football on the knoll in Ladybrook and has the old saying goes if I had a pound for every time we trudged up Bancroft Lane I would be a rich man. We went up and over the hill where St Marys church now stands and when it was built I remember thinking that although I have my religious believes if it is all true why would god build a church there causing us to walk another half a mile further to play football. One day I was with my friend Geoff Penford, as we came round the corner from Castle Street his parents were having TV installed . the first on the street. I recall staying in his house transfixed to this box watching programs like in town tonight and the news , not much on TV in the fifties. I hope I am correct in saying that there wasn’t any daytime TV and broadcasts ended well before midnight and you were left watching a little light in the middle of the screen slowly disappear.
After I left Moor Lane my parents were informed that my next school was a new school called Cumberlands I had never heard of it and I didn’t know where it was, my dad said you had better get on your bike and find it. When I started school there it was a strict regime , the first day we were all in the hall being told the does and DONT’S expected at the school things like keep your hands off the walls, don’t run in the corridor’s and don’t enter the gym in shoes that one was almost a hanging offence. The headmaster was Mr Crompton others I can remember are Mr Roberts, Mr Swain, Mr Amos. Mr Daniels. Mr Burton, Mrs Bean and Mrs Fowler. I enjoyed my time at there especially woodwork. metalwork. art and sports activities. In my last year at school I had a job at Marstens grocers at the top of Church street delivering groceries around Mansfield including Ladybrook on a bike with a large basket at the front. another job at Marstens was to take the days takings in a large canvas bag across the market place to the bank, no risk assessments in those days.
This takes me to Christmas in 1961 when I left school. I didn’t have a job on leaving but quickly got a job in engineering at Purdy’s in Mansfield Woodhouse. one funny story is that when I started work I needed to buy a 0 to 1 inch micrometer and I didn’t know where to get one from. There was a bike shop on Rosemary Street owned by Fred Coupe, I have seen reference to it on this web site. My dad said to me try Fred Coupes on Rosemary Street if anyone has one he has. I thought that this being a bike shop it would be a waste of time but I had better try. I went into the shop to be met by Mr coupe he was an eccentric looking man with his glasses worn on the end of his nose. The shop was a bit like the one in the two Ronnies four candles sketch but a lot more untidy. He looked at me and said what can I do for you lad. I took a deep breath and asked if he had a micrometer, he glared at me and turned round to go into a five minuet frenzy of opening draws and cupboards, looking under piles of stock and finally came to the counter with a look of success, here you are lad I was amazed, I still have it see photo.
I had a brilliant childhood in Ladybrook and wouldn’t change anything if I could.
I met my wife Maureen at the Mansfield Palais and three sons. eight grandchildren and a bus pass later, well that’s another story.