Clumber Street 1939
On the corner with Leeming Street, going down the left-hand side, was a pawnbrokers and outfitters called Marrs and memorable to me for announcing, in large letters, that it sold “Boy’s, Youth’s and Mens’ trousers” – the signwriter obviously hadn’t quite got the hang of using the possessive apostrophe. Next door, during the war years, was a small outpost of the Ministry of Food, which dispensed cod-liver oil and orange juice to children under the age of five.
Then came the opening of what is now called Clerkson’s Alley. At the top of this, in a dim, cave- like cubby hole, Charlie Braithwaite (who only had one hand and always came to work on a bike) sold such things as turpentine and putty. He is listed in Linney’s Almanack as a ‘Druggist & Oil Merchant’. Opposite his establishment was a fenced-off patch of waste ground, then the opening into Regent Street where, on the other corner was another large space used as a British Legion car park. The gentleman in charge was a WWI veteran; he had lost an arm in that conflict.
Regent Street was developed after a slum clearance in the late 1920’s but had to wait until well after WWll to be completed. On Clumber Street, where the car park ended, was Spa House owned by H. Powell & Sons, who were aerated water manufacturers & wine, beer spirit retailers. The shop was managed by Mr. Enderby who lived, with his wife and two children -Pauline and Graham, in a house at the back of the shop. Also at the back of the shop was an area used a depot and delivery yard. This was accessible via Alfred’s Court (still there on West Gate, between Marks & Spencer and Woolworths).
Then came Pye’s Garage – amongst other things they re-charged batteries. The sales department of Clumber Builders was on one side of the very steep entrance to the Eclipse Yard, leading onto West Gate. On the other side was Bevis, the Cabinet Makers, and T.S.Barrows, another Cabinet Maker who was also a French Polisher and Furniture Restorer. After the opening to the Nag’s Head Yard was another stretch of waste ground, and after the narrow opening to the Cross Key’s Yard was the Portland Motor Company.
Back Lane West
Clumber Street, originally called Back Lane West ran parallel to the Medieval West Gate and along the narrow plots belonging to property there. It also gave access to meadows and grazing areas. An advertisement in local newspaper of 1768 says:- ‘To Let – well-accustomed Nagg’ s Head Inn, in West Gate, with good stabling for 40 horses, with or without 4 acres of good meadow land’ An earlier advertisement (1767) announced:- ‘For sale dwelling house, Westgate, called the Cross Keys Inn – with malt office, barn, stables, other out-houses, garden & large back-side.’ Eventually the narrow garden plots were used to supply housing for the growing population and gave rise to the many yards and courts leading from West Gate to Back Lane West. When this latter was widened, it was given the more up-market title of Clumber Street.
Stretching down the next part of Clumber Street was a high boundary wall enclosing the back yard of Cromwell House, on West Gate. This ended at Number 82, a very old property, the home and business premises of the Northwood Brothers (and the wife of one of them). They are listed as being Carting Contractors. They had a horse and cart and delivered coal around the district. Their yard and stable abutted the small back yards of the New Inn and other shops on West Gate, including that of Corson’s, the butcher’s, whose rounded window marked the end of West Gate and the left-hand side of Clumber Street.
Across the road, on the corner of West Hill Drive, was the surgery of Drs. Flint, Stronach & Hutchinson. Mr. & Mrs. Beresford were the caretakers. They lived on the premises with their son Cedric. Next came four stone-built cottages, (Nos. 100-106). They each had a brick wall with steps, placed at right- angles to the street, to give access to the front doors. Originally these had iron railings which were removed, circa 1939, as were most other non-essential iron railings in the town, to help the war effort. Attached to No.100 was a more modern structure –a house belonging to Wright Brother’s, Grocers & Seedsmen.
Delivery Yard, West Hill Avenue
In between this, and their shop, on the corner of West Hill Avenue, was the entrance to a large yard used for delivery and unloading of sacks of flour and sugar, dried fruit, barrels of vinegar, vats of molasses etc. which arrived by the lorry load and were stored in the warehouse attached to the rear of the shop. Mr. Wright, or Mr. ‘Willem’ as he was called, lived in a big house built on to the warehouse, on the corner of West Hill Avenue and West Hill Drive. The house on Clumber Street was the home of Mr. & Mrs. Wilson. Mrs. Wilson was housekeeper to Mr. Willum and Mr, Wilson delivered milk from a farm the Wright’s had on Pheasant Hill.
Thirteen Stone Cottages
On the other side of West Hill Avenue, stood a block of thirteen cottages. They were built of stone, the ground floors were stone, and so were the stairs. They had a coal fire range, in the downstairs room – which provided, heat, hot water and means of cooking – but up to the 1950’s was true of many households. They had no indoor water supply – just one outdoor tap for the whole block and the ratio of outdoor toilets was one between each two families though. Since there were thirteen houses, one family had to have exclusive use of one, or perhaps there were only six toilets between them and three families had to share! Further up the street, somewhere opposite the end of Cromwell House wall, was the shop of J. Robinson & Son, Painters & Decorators. On another piece of waste ground was a small construction which housed the Calor Gas Distributor.
Then there were the steps leading up to The Lurchills – that handy shortcut from Clumber Street to Woodhouse Road. If you were of a mind, you could cross-town from Rosemary Street to Woodhouse Road, using these handy shortcuts. Beyond The Lurchills was The Progressive Book Shop and then Tindalls – listed as an antique dealer but really more of a junk shop. One of these shops served as an illegal betting-shop but I don’t know which. A row of stone clad houses came next, although some of them had been converted into shops – there was Harleys, the draper, Sid Wolfe, cycle dealer, Joan Sansom, hairdresser and Renshaws, tobacconist, newsagent and general goods.
On one corner of Belmont Terrace, and stretching up that steep slope, were the warehouses and workshops of Clumber Builders. On the other corner, stood a very old building. In the rear part of this building lived Miss Hare, (or ‘Eyre’) who had a small, but high-class shoe shop on Leeming Street, near the corner with Toothill Lane. The front part was a shop. Players, House Furnishers, which was taken over by John Hamill in the early years of the war.
Other shops in this section were Hutchinsons, painters and decorators, who also sold wallpaper, Jones Sewing Machines and Brown Sc Florence, boot repairers; they later moved onto Toothill Lane. The offices of Charles Vallance & Son, building contractors, were above the last of these shops which was was on the corner of Whyatt’s Yard. This was a row of three stone cottages, which stood, more or less, where the Car Park toilets are now. Shaw, Taylor & Simmons, wholesale fruit and potato merchants ran their business from former outbuildings in the yard of the Stag and Pheasant, on the corner of Leeming Street.
Clumber Street in October 1988
Go and look at Clumber Street today. You’ll see nothing remotely resembling anything I have just described – except the pub. Even this, after two refurbishment’s and name-changes (it first became the Tap & Spile and then Nelson’s), is now empty and will, I’m sure, shortly disappear. Clumber Street began life as an access road and in the fullness of time, that is what it seems to have become again, except that now, it’s much wider and allows only one-way traffic whose flow is controlled by three sets of traffic-lights. I grew up in this area, it holds many memories for my family and myself but, walking along it today, I feel like an alien in a strange land.
Joan Piccini – llth October 1998