The Waters around our Town...
The Industrial Revolution, brought about many changes to the way we lived. Not only did it change the standard of living of the people in our area, that is if there was any standard of living at all, it brought work for our town folk and it attracted many new folk to our town.
We were very fortunate that in the beginning the water found it’s way through the lowlands of Mansfield. Most of our ponds came to be through the actions of man, for although some of our areas were naturally formed waters, most were man-made for the knitting industries that were growing at that time.
New large mills were built and to provide the power to drive the many machines in the mills, water power was used. All this arriving from our own River Maun.
History lesson over, I shall now talk of the ponds that I knew as a child. Most of them that I knew about were on the Bleakhills side of the town.The Bleakhills of Mansfield was to me like a smaller version of the Lake District.
I shall start with the reservoir at Kings Mill. This stretch of water was man made under the instruction of the Duke of Portland, who in his wisdom to take advantage of the growing requirements of the knitting industry, decided to make use of the ever flowing waters of the River Maun. His idea was to dig out the thousands of tons of earth at the side of the river to create a massive basin that would contain enough water that would supply the power required for the mill’s machines. I’m only going from memory, but I believe he bought up about 16 acres of farmland for the project. How did he do this ? Well, as I have previously mentioned in these pages, he employed hundreds of men, his only stipulation for employment was each man had to bring a wheelbarrow along. All the earth excavated was wheeled across Hermitage Lane and can still be seen today, for it forms the highest mound of earth on that side of the road, sporting two or three trees at the top of the hill that was formed. This was an area that we would play in as a youngster. One of the things that stay in my mind were the fields full of Cowslips.
Cauldwell Dam was situated at the lowest point of the old Cauldwell Road. What I do know is that once again this dam was bisected by another railway line, for the line to take it’s shortest route. The above system of using water as a provider of power for the mills soon caught on. Much of the Cauldwell Dam waters meandered it’s way as a brooklet through rural land to the smaller of the Bleakhills Ponds. This brook was known as Cauldwell Brook. Both the pond and the brook overflowed, filtering to the front of the cottage causing the swampland on the left of Bleakhills Lane, This is the tricky bit-the waters from the swamp and the brook, were piped to a ditch that ran along the right of The Bleakhills Dam. From here once again it was piped under the second railway line that separated Bleakhills Dam and Reed Mill Dam. Here the brook turned slightly away from Reed Mill Dam forming it’s own streamlet. Again it was piped under Sheepbridge Lane joining the river Maun at The Crawler. This was done by the laying of a large concrete pipe under Sheepbridge Lane.
Reed Mill Dam was probably named Matlock Dam in years gone by, but Reed Mill Dam is the one that stuck. It is a dam that has a vibrant fishing club. It also found work for the employment of hundreds of people in the textile industry, right up to the 50’s and 60’s.
It is now we return over the Hermitage Playing Field, crossing Hermitage Lane back to the Hermitage Mill and the River Maun. The Hermitage Mill had it’s own dam at the side of the mill with the River Maun running along it’s side. This Dam was not in my time accessible from the road. We had to go up the river to it. I recall there being a lot of Hazelnut trees along the riverside.
The rocks along the factory side of the Dam indicated it was manmade. Both the dam and the factory had railway lines either side of them. Infact, one of the railway lines was built across the dam making the original dam much smaller in size. The River Maun continued it’s journey under the bridge that spanned it. This bridge was unnoticed on Hermitage Lane except for the small stone wall either side of the road on Hermitage Lane. I have walked under this bridge many times along the narrow tow path that is along one side of the river. This bridge and stile was right in the corner of the Hermitage, and although much has changed, I believe the stone walls are still there.
The Hermitage, as I have said before, was a playfield for all the children of the area, and the river at this part was a haven for the children for fishing (nets), and paddling. We learned much from nature.
When I think of the Dams and waters of our Town, they all had one thing in common, and that was , they were all stocked with fish. Many kinds of fresh water fish were there for the fisherman to try his skills. What a pleasant sight it was to see a fisherman sat at the side of the stretch of water having cast his line some distance from the edge , waiting for his float to disappear.
Okay, back to the Hermitage Dam, following the River Maun downstream a little further on. We come to the two dams, side by side, with a six foot wide manmade pathway between that had been built to separate the expanse of water , dividing it into the two ponds. The River Maun encircled the two ponds turning left around the second pond which had an overflow lockgate that when opened, allowed any excess water to feed the River Maun. These two ponds were the ones we as youngsters spent many a happy hour swimming in. The pond on the left had a man made island in the middle that had been built of stone around the circle. The Waterhens and Ball-Coots made the most of it. In fact, the whole area was a haven for the wildlife. I shall never forget being able to watch the Kingfishers fishing for the minnows. How wonderful it all was….
Still following the course of the river, it meandered its way to Sheepbridge Lane, passing under the wide road to the Crawler. this was in my time a popular area for children. It was also at this point that the River Maun was joined by another small tributary which entered the Maun through a large concrete pipe that also came from under Sheepbridge Lane.
My recent visit to Bleakhills Lane, I cannot forget the fact that we used to call it Harvey’s Lane. Photographs of the lane today have been posted, no apologies for the repetition.
I am so sorry, but I have to take you back to two more, no three more stretches of water that I very nearly forgot.Two were probably the most popular locations of water of the time, being located between Sheepbridge Lane and Bleakhills Lane. As I have mentioned before, Bleakhills Lane , to us , was always called Harveys Lane. whether there was a name change or not, I could not say. I recently visited this area to find that it is still very much similar to what it was in the 1940’s, except there are some new houses in what were fields, and the two old cottages have disappeared. Where there was nothing stopping you from accessing the waters there are now high fences to stop the public from entering. About 200 yards down Bleakhills Lane there used to be a lovely stone cottage that stood back from the Lane. In front of the cottage there was a wooded area that grew out of a swampland. This swampland water was a natural overflow from a lake that was hidden from view at the rear right of the cottage. This too was fenced off from members of the public when I recently visited, but is still a swampland, and the lake now appears to be a private fishing lake.
Across the road from the swampland, is Bleakhills Dam which comes up to the roadside which in turn is divided by the low stone wall that was there when I was a youngster.The wall is still there but so is the protecting 6ft fence that stops access. Look past the fence and the dam of Bleakhills is still a beautiful place. The Swans and other wildlife are still there. Along the right of the dam was a streamlet. This stream flowed under the Railway embankment through a concrete pipe, then alongside the right of Reed Mill Dam as an open stream, between the old cottages alongside Sheepbridge Lane. This was the continuation of Cauldwell Brook.
The railway line at the far side of Bleakhills Dam has gone, but the Embankment separating Bleakhills Dam from Read Mill Dam , still divides the two. Reed Mill Dam had a few different names as the owners of the mill changed. Firstly the Mill was Matlock Mill. Then it was Johnsons Mill, and finally, and still is called ,Reed Mill. Of course the mill is now used for other industrial purposes. The Dam itself was very popular , both in Summer and Winter, for in winter it froze over and became a very popular skating rink for the skaters. Those of us who had no skates enjoyed the slides we made. We never seemed to feel the cold. Reed Mill Dam has kept it’s name and still has a thriving Fishing Club, for it is well stocked with fish for the fishermen to enjoy their fishing. Many a monster fish has been caught there with rod and line.
Across the road, and back to The Crawler, the river continued it’s merry way meandering through the beautiful woodland we used to call The Robin Hood, the passing under a lovely wooden bridge, passing the Lord Byron Pub, and what was at the time, The Byron Yard. Sadly now both have gone. Further down the river, and well before my time, the river had been “dammed” once more. At the bottom of Bradder Street, in the valley, a man-made dam had been built to power the Corn Mill that had been there for many years. As I said, this was all before my time, and both the Mill and the Dam had disappeared. Although the old Lock gates to control the water remained, being a further reminder of the industry that went before.
It is amazing how many roads the River Maun passes under, for just before the now extinct viaduct, the Maun takes a right wheel turn to once more go underground. This time it is the unmade road that led you from Quarry Lane to the Sand and Stone Quarries, and also if one continued along the road you came to Matlock Avenue. I have a feeling you cannot do that now.
The River continued to make it’s way along to the large dam of Field Mill. This Mill was renowned for having the largest water wheel in the country. Quite a building feat in it’s day.The stone below was excavated to house the huge wheel. This dam to me as a youngster was huge and sported the finest lock control system I had ever seen.The Mill itself was a very large building and gave it’s name to the dam and the football ground. In my day, the building was a Leather Factory and a Saw Mill.
What must have been another major project for the panners and builders of the day was the bridging of the River Maun on Nottingham Road, for it is just about the widest part of that road.
Titchfield Park, today, is very much similar to what it was in my day. Maybe it was much more used for I remember spending many a happy hour there, paddling and playing as a child. A lot of work again must have been done in re-edging and stone laying along the River Maun in the making it safe. At the other end of the park, the river once again disappears, this time underneath an old town Mill.The flow of the river seemed to speed up in the park…
The river was used by two more of the old town mills for power, before it once again disappeared underground, this time passing under Bridge Street. To me, this is where the river disappears again. Once again there is a sign of man’s work, for leading down the St. Peter’s Church the river has been culverted. I do know that where it comes out from under Bridge Street, there is a huge slurry pit below the waters. The next I know of the river is that it continues along the bottom of Bath Lane and Rayners field where we have had to retrieve many a case ball when playing football on that field. I do believe old man river carries on again under the road making his way through Guylers and Ravensdale. You are now out of my area. But there is Vickers Waters Rainworth Waters White Water river.
This is where my story has to end, for I know very little of Old Man River Maun from here. My story began with The Reservoir, I have mentioned nothing of The Cocoa Pond, The Brickyard Pond, or any other ponds that were man made by the farmers for his cattle. I am sure there are many folk out there who can comment on the rest. For without these waters, Mansfield would not be the place we all enjoyed growing up in.
As I have said, we in Mansfield are very lucky to have been born in an area with so much culture and history, and dare I say it, to be called a person who originates from Mansfield. I Love It.