Sheepbridge Lane. Mansfield.
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 !