Sheepbridge Lane. Mansfield.

Sheepbridge Lane…

An important part of our history that we know very little about, and certainly to me, it has always been there as I lived in close proximity to the lane.

It is a road I have used for almost eighty years. Many years ago, ( if you look at some old maps ) Sheepbridge Lane, was part of the old road that took travellers from Newark to Manchester via Rainworth, Mansfield, Chesterfield and Stockport. If you look at the old road, it is virtually as straight as you would get travelling over hill and dale, over the Bleakhills and peaks from A to B. From Skegby Lane and Sheepbridge  Lane, the road is all down hill as far as the river Maun, and over the river Maun the road is uphill towards High Oakham.

The road in our area from Chesterfield, would have taken you through Teversal, Stanton Hill, Skegby, Mansfield, Rainworth, and on to Newark. With many small villages in between, it would have taken many days to complete the journey in those far off times.

Originally this road would have taken you through what at one time was Shirewood / Sherwood Forest. Indeed, Mansfield was known locally as the town in the Forest.

I have been brought up with the River Maun, the railways, the quarries, the dams, the coal mines, the textile industry, the engineering and the foundry industry. I have seen the 20th century prosperity and growth of the 1950’s and 1960’s, followed by the depression of the 1980’s. The collapse of the textile industry, the decline of the railways, the decline of the coal industry and the decline of the engineering and foundry industries. This all had a massive affect on the Mansfield area. The knock on affect reached everyone.

However. ..The 1950’s and 1960’s will probably go down as the finest prosperity years following the 6 years of war from 1939 to 1945. It was a time when inventions began to improve the lives of everyone.

Sheepbridge Lane stretched from Sutton Road to almost the main Nottingham Road, which from earlier days,was the main route to the City and in many ways it still is.

Benton’s Paper Shop was on the corner of Sutton Road and Sheep- bridge Lane.I t was a shop I knew well, for it was from there that I delivered papers, as a paper boy.  My delivery round started from the Quortex Hosiery Factory, right up to Kings Mill Reservoir. Behind the Paper Shop, there was a small estate of private houses, with Western Avenue being the main avenue on this small estate, leading from Sheepbridge Lane through the estate back to Sutton Road. On the opposite side of the road, actually on Sutton Road, there was a fine Fish and Chip shop run by Mr and Mrs Chantry, (I believe the Chippy is still there), and at the side of it I believe there was a Co-operative Store.

Intake Avenue was on the left of Sheepbridge. There also stood a row of private houses that stood back from the road and had a service road along the front of them. At the end of this row of houses there was another textile factory, locally known as Turners Factory. At the side of this factory was an unmade road that lead you to the Cocoa Pond and the Hayfield. If you followed the unmade road it took you to the Brickyard Pond, the old Brickworks, and the bottom of Moor Lane where it meets the old Brickyard and Victoria Terrace. In front of you would have been the old Saint Aiden’s Church at the top of the embankment.

From Sutton Road, Sheepbridge Lane went down a hill, part of which I believe was man made to accommodate the railway lines crossing Sheepbridge Lane over the stone bridge. Unfortunately, the gradient of the road did not cater for the high traffic of today, and high vehicles cannot use this road.  One can still see today where the road was cut out from the rocks, for there are rock facings either side of the road, and either side of the stone built railway bridge where the rock has been cut out for the deepening of the road. We used to climb these rocks on to the Hayfield.

I have spoken of the Cocoa Pond before, aptly named for the colour of the water there.This showed the amount of red clay in the ground. At both ends of the Hayfield there were quite large excavations of earth that had been removed but not filled in. In heavy rain, the two excavations held the rain and formed some quite large pools of water, in places up to a foot deep. When the football pitch was marked out on the Hayfield,it had an excavation behind each set of goals. When playing a game in bad weather the pitch became very ” boggy “…

The two deep excavations and the clay near the Brickyard, lead me to wonder whether the clay was something to do with the Brickworks?  Was there some pottery work done in the kilns or was there a pottery works in the area ?  The clues are there. And did the Sand Quarry behind Bradder Street, at first supply the Brickworks with the clay before the clay expired ? I know there was some clay on the tippin.

After passing under the bridge, on the left, dug into the stone and leading up to a separate footbridge of Cinderella’s Walk, there were  stone steps that allowed pedestrians access over the foot bridge that also spanned Sheepbridge Lane.

Crossing the foot bridge would take you to the Hermitage, where there were several terraced old stone cottages, and Bad Man’s Road, at the end of which,stood another textile mill. This mill belonged to the family named Eden, and was situated on Hermitage Lane. Eden’s Mill also had a dam at the side of it that was used to power the machines and provided a place for fishing.

The Hermitage was our seaside, at the time. It was grassland on a slope going down to the river Maun. A chunk of bread, a bottle of water, we would roly poly down the bank until we were dizzy. Making daisy chains, picking buttercups and paddling in the river, we forgot everything but the enjoyment of being on the ” Hermo “. At one point in the river, there was a spring that came out of the bank leaking it’s clear spring water into the river. If you cupped your hands and drank of the waters,it was, to us, like cold nectar.

Back to Sheepbridge Lane. Further along under the bridge , a stone wall had been built bordering the road, behind which were many allotments. At the end of the wall and the allotments, you came to where Quarry Lane meets Sheepbridge Lane. Crossing Quarry Lane you came to the River Maun and the Crawler, a bridge over the River Maun allowed the road to continue over the river. At the side of the Crawler were, and still are, the high rocks of Matlock Avenue, which must have been quarried at some time. Sat on the top of the rocks were 2/3 bungalows in a small cul-de sac. I recall Mr Boole, the Moor Lane Caretaker lived in one of them.

Going back to the footbridge of Cinderella’s Walk which crosses over Sheepbridge Lane: Turning left at the end of the footbridge would take you down a lane to the Little Matlock Mill. On the left of this lane was where the rocks dropped down to ground level, and on the right there were some more old stone cottages, probably built for the mill workers of the Little Matlock Mill which stood next to the cottages. Some of the names of the folk who lived in the old stone cottages were Mallatrat, Stendall and Brown, all of who were good Mansfield families..

Little Matlock Mill is one of the oldest mills. It sports two dams and had the added benefit of the river Maun. It is no wonder Matlock Avenue was named after the mill. To my knowledge the mill has had several owners. The names I know it to have been named  are Little Matlock Mill, Johnson’s Mill, and Reed Mill. At the side of the mill just a little further along Sheepbridge Lane, were a row of stone cottages which were below ground level and did not have any front doors. Entry was accessed by a small passage from the front kerb that you went down some steps to. The only doors to the cottages were at the rear from the road, each cottage having it’s own small private yard…, The cottages backed on to/ or faced the dam and were also built for the mill workers. Folk still lived in them during my time.

In winter time, every year the dam would freeze over and lots of people would skate on the ice. Those of us who had no skates would slide in our hobnail boots. For the last 70 years as I know of Reed Mill Dam has been a very very popular place for fishing.  It always used to get well stocked with fish. Also at the rear of the mill, one of the open fields was converted to a cricket field. Two of the team members I knew were Harry Oscroft ( who played football for Mansfield Town, and was transferred to Stoke City sometime in the 1950s) and Ron Parnwell whom I played football with for Mansfield Boys in the 1940s. In one cricket match Ron took all ten wickets, and after the match was given the cricket ball. He also scored 11 goals in a football match when playing for Bradder St. Boys which we won 15 -1 after being 1 – 0 down.

From the small cottages at the side of the road, there were no more houses, only the river, the willow trees, and of course the Dam itself, all of which were railed from the road.

From Matlock Avenue on the left there were more private houses which were raised from the road. What a view they had at one time , overlooking the dam, the railway lines and the hills of Bleakhills. These houses went as far as the railway lines and Garth Road.

It was here that the railway lines went under Sheepbridge Lane and where the name of the lane terminated. Across the road from Garth Road, was what we knew as Harvey’s Lane, one of the most beautiful lanes at that time in the area. The lane took you past a railway in the distance, a dam with a side river, reeds and bullrushes, swans raising their young, wild fowl like Coots and Moor Hens,   fishermen fishing, a beautiful cottage with magnificent roses, horses in the field that came up to you so you could stroke their head, cows grazing, a five barred gate, another beautiful cottage, another five barred gate, fields of corn, and when the time was right, fields of bluebells. Many were the days you heard the Sky Larks singing their proud songs high in the sky.

One could, at one time take a short cut across the corn fields to Hermitage Lane and then on to the reservoir . It was lovely walking through the corn fields, and as the seasons changed, so did the fields. When ripe, the farmer would  start to get the crop in, but first the corn had to be cut, bound into sheaths and stood on end, leant up in groups against each other, and left to dry.The field of corn took the shape of what can only be described as a small American Indian reservation of wigwams. When dry, the corn would then be threshed ( separating the corn from the chaff ). The corn would be bagged in hessian  bags and the rest would be baled and made into a haystack. This became the Winter fodder for the animals of the farm which is something you do not see today. Now the corn is gathered all in one swoop and the hay left in the fields rolled into large balls which are left to dry. If dry when cut, the hay is wrapped in polythene.

From Harvey’s Lane, Sheepbridge became  High Oakham Hill , which in turn became Atkins Lane, then onto Berry Hill.  How lovely it all was.

It was, and I’m sure still is, that Atkins Lane, the High Oakham area,  Berry Hill and Nottingham Road were the more affluent areas of the town. These were areas that I could only look on with a little envy. That was then !

Comments about this page

  • I  stumbled across this website looking for a little more information about the area where my dad grew up … he lived on bleak hills in the 1930’s and his family name Mallatratt is mentioned in some of the memories. My dads name is Alan Mallatratt…very sadly he passed away a few weeks ago and someone he grew up with on bleakhills attended his funeral (but didn’t leave his name ) and my mum would love to speak with him to share some memories. Can anybody help with any information please?

    By Debbie Attewell (29/04/2018)
  • Hello Gail I’ve been reading a few of your comments and you seem to know the area very well, could you tell me what the old derelict building is at the end of Bleakhills, you can see it from the new Marr Road that leads to Kings Mill Reservoir and it is located next to an industrial estate now. I would love to know what it’s function was I could only imagine it to be a farm house but it seems close to all the mills you are talking about. I would love to hear back from anyone who knows about this build and it’s area  

    By Kadi (31/03/2015)
  • Was born and lived on Cromford Ave for 22 years, did most of the area walking with my dad on a Sunday afternoon down Bleakhills.

    By Sheila (26/10/2013)
  • Hi Alan, My grandfather was called Ernest (or Ern) Meakin and he lived at 211 Victoria Street. He was born in 1901 and died in 1973. My mother was Betty Meakin. Do you know him or any of his family? He had a sister Ida, who also lived on Victoria Street and a brother Len (and his wife May) on Moor Street. Do let me know if you remember any of them Gail

    By Gail (24/10/2013)
  • Hello again Gail… Tell me , What was your grandfathers name ? 

    By alan curtis (18/10/2013)
  • Hi Alan, Thank you so much for your reply. This is a lovely site and reading all the posts has brought back some long forgotten memories. Thanks for shedding light on the farm house. I remember it as a big stone house although I thought it was an orchard. I do remember the wooden gate too. I used to pass this house every day on my way to and from from Moor Lane School. I was born at the top of Victoria street back in 1957 and lived there in my grandfathers house until I was five and my parents moved into a new council house at the top of the jitty off Skegby Lane. My grandfather always told stories of how he used to sledge down Brick Kiln Lane when he was a boy. Is it just me or did life seem simpler and happier back then. Gail

    By Gail (17/10/2013)
  • Again Alan has painted a portrait of memories that we all seem to share. From the 50s to the 60s many of us have gone down those lanes, streets, across the fields and were care free and daring, ie walking on the edge of the railway bridge over Sheepbridge Lane or daring someone to enter the railway switch house. From “scrupping” in the orchards along Sheepbridge Lane, or headed to the Hermitige to go fishing in the ponds, playing cowboys and indians or “commandos” with the “gang” off Moor Street, Victoria and Princes Street. Yes we were healthy and creative. Many many stories are kept in the back of our minds and brought forward with those “cues” from the past. Thanks to all, and especially Allen Regards to all Mike

    By Mike Frost (16/10/2013)
  • Hello Gail, Many years ago, that house as you call it was a farmhouse. The large five barred gate that be-fronted it had an opening onto Skegby Lane. Through the gate you entered a large yard, with the farmhouse on one sde, and outbuildings on the other. The area between the farm and the outbuildings was large, for one could often see the cows in the yard, quite a herd of them. That would probably have been at milking time. I did see sheep there at times, but I guess they would have mostly been housed in the fields. It seemed that they mainly had cows, for they sold milk to many people in the immediate area. I cannot say which fields they owned, for all on the left of Skegby Lane were fields, open fields were one had wonderful views of the Coxmoor Hills. There were only houses built on the right of the lane, these would have benefitted by having the most gorgeous views over the Bleak Hills. Brick Kiln Lane had houses both sides to the top of the hill where the houses ended and it became one of the most beautiful lanes in Mansfield. This lane had the most beautiful grassland fields which seemed to go for miles each side.

    By alan curtis (15/10/2013)
  • Could you please tell me anything about the old house that stood at the bottom of Skegby Lane and Brick Kiln Lane near the John Cockle, prior to the bungalows that are there now.

    By gail warner (14/10/2013)
  • Hello Paul, I took a couple of shots of Sheepbridge Lane last year and put them on this site, they are of the low bridges and the steps up to Cinderella’s Walk, if you click on Places then Mansfield and scroll through you’ll find them.

    By Peter Bowler (29/07/2013)
  • It would be great if you could take some photographs on your next walk Peter, you live 12 miles south but l live 8000miles south in Indonesia! We used to walk up those old stone steps and cross what was then a wooden bridge, we would play all day on a swing rope over the ponds, as memory fades l can’t recall some of what you describe, it would be the mid 1960’s when we played there. Kids in my day were all basically very skinny as you would be very active all day burning up your energy with nothing to eat since breakfast till you went home about tea time, it was too much fun to bother going home for dinner. Although l am a long way from Mansfield there are four other people working in Indonesia who come from the Mansfield area, small world!

    By Paul Robinson (28/07/2013)
  • Paul , I too remember the old stone steps that took you down from Cinderella’s Walk, to Sheepbridge Lane,and the bridge over to the Hermitage.Those steps were worn right down in the centre in my day, so they must have just about been through in yours. It sounds as though things didn’t change from the 40’s to the 60’s when outside playing.They were great healthy times for us, cannot recall any of the gang coming to any harm.

    By alan curtis (28/07/2013)
  • I can’t recall the island Alan but I remember the paddock on the far side of the dams that ran up to the footpath from Sheepbridge Lane, as you looked across the dams on the right of the paddock was a cottage. One day we tried to take a short cut across the paddock and a fearsome woman came out of the cottage and played hell with us, we ran like mad, she didn’t catch us. The path from Sheepbridge Lane down to the Maun had a lot of brambles on the right hand side (theres a metal fence there now) and they were always covered in spiders webs with big green spiders on them I’d never seen so many spiders in one place and still haven’t. As for the Kingfishers I sometimes see one on my walks down there, could be a descendant of the ones we used to see all those years ago.

    By Peter Bowler. (11/02/2013)
  • Peter, you have just taken me back just about 70 years. How right you are in your description. The first of the two dams had an island in the middle. We used to swim and fish in both of these ponds. I also remember the overflow gates that fed the River Maun. But one of the most memorable memories, was watching the very pretty Kingfishers catching the Minnows out of the River Maun.

    By alan curtis (09/02/2013)
  • I remember the Cocoa Pond very well Alan. I had a friend who lived on Intake Avenue and another one on Frank Avenue so I spent quite a bit of time in that area in the late 1950s and early 60s. The two dams that powered Matlock Mill was where we sometimes fished there was a very narrow strip of ground separating the two, with just a narrow channel you could jump over joining them together, do you remember? I remember where the path that ran and still does run from the footbridge over Sheepbridge Lane to Hermitage Lane met the river at the top end of the two dams there was a sluice gate that let water from the river into the dams and we edged our way across it to get to onto the banks of the dams. The river took a sharp left turn along the end of the second dam then a sharp right turn where the outflow sluice gate was. On the other side of the outflow sluice was a very old circular saw which could at one time have been driven by water from the dam. I haven’t lived in Mansfield since 1973 I now live about 12 miles south but I sometimes park at Kings Mill reservoir and walk down the side of the river as far as Field Mill dam then back over the old railway line over Quarry Lane to where it met the main line at South Junction and the engine sheds. You wouldn’t recognise where the two dams were, they’ve straightened the river out and as far as I can tell the footpath now runs where the dams were.

    By Peter Bowler. (08/02/2013)

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