Forest Town Miners Hostel 1944 - 1959

War Coal Requirements .

In the Second World War the government became aware that the output from coal mines were falling short of the country’s need to maintain our war effort. There were two main reasons for this.

  1. Although coal miners were in a reserved occupation many left to join the military service, some because they were glad to get out of poor working conditions and for better pay. Others joined to be patriotic or due to pressure from the public who asked why they were not in uniform.
  2. The war effort now needed more coal than in peace time, for example;
  • Coal was needed for the increase in steel output for armaments etc.
  • Most of our transport at that time was via the railways, with the vast majority of trains being coal fired steam engines.
  • A large number of factories were converted to supply the armaments required for the war, many of these were dependent upon the power for the equipment, being supplied by coal fired steam boilers.

Bevin Boys.

The solution to overcome this shortage was to divert enlisted men to the coal mines as suggested by Ernest Bevin, the Minister for Labour. These recruits were thus given the name of ‘Bevin Boys’ and like their military counterparts had to be provided with accommodation.

These Headlines appeared in Mansfield Newspapers in January 1944 ‘Miner Trainees – Six Hundred Billets Required in Mansfield’.

The domestic billets provided were not adequate and two Bevin Boy Hostels were built in Mansfield each designed to accommodate 500 people, one at Abbot Road, and the other at Forest Town. Here we briefly cover the life of only one Hostel.

The Forest Town Hostel.

Nationally the government had over provided the Bevin Boy Hostel facilities throughout the country. Hence for the fifteen years life of the Forest Town Hostel it served other national needs, not just those of the Bevin Boys.

Time Line.

1944 – May 27th the Forest Town Hostel opened for Bevin Boys.

In August, the Bevin Boys moved out to provide accommodation for Epileptic children and their staff from Lingfield Residential Epileptic Colony in Surrey.
With less than two days notice 150 boys, (plus necessary equipment) travelled by coach, ambulance, and lorry to Forest Town, two days later 85 girls followed, there was also 45 staff with them.

The Lingfield Colony was in the flight path of the V1 Rockets (Doodlebug Flying Bomb). In June 1944 one bomb fell on the Lingfield Colony causing vast destruction to three girls homes and hospital block injuring 60 girls. Ten weeks later two of the boy’s homes were hit by another bomb making the running of the school virtually impossible. This instigated the short notice move to Forest Town Hostel.

1945 – Bevin Boys returned.

1946 – No 3 Police Training Centre.

Despite being called No 3 it was the first to be opened in the country and accommodated Police Trainees from:

  • Derbyshire
  • Lincolnshire
  • Nottinghamshire
  • West Riding of Yorkshire
  • And until other training centres were opened the Home Office directed the Chief constables of Bedford, Cambridge, Hampshire, Hull, Norwich, Oxford, Reading, Kent, Southampton, Yarmouth, Luton, Sussex, and West Suffolk, to send men to train at Forest Town.

1947 – No 3 Police Training Centre moved to new Headquarters at the former American Hospital at Sutton in Ashfield (Kings Mill Hospital).

Bevin Boys returned along with many European displaced persons. As after the war ended our government recruited many East European ex-military personnel (Polish) and displaced persons (Latvian, Ukrainians, Italians), and also some Irish, came to Britain to work in the coal mines or work in the Hostel. Each had their own story to tell!

1948 – It was not until 1948 that the Bevin Boys were given permission to leave the coal mine and return home, there was no formal Demobilisation. By this time several of them had married local girls and decided to stay in Mansfield.

1949 – Abbot Road Hostel closed and the occupants moved to Forest Town.

1956 – Following the Hungarian Uprising many refugees were accommodated at the Hostel. Many arrived with just the clothes they had on, and for some, the only footwear they had were carpet slippers.

1959 – 10th October the Hostel Closed.

The council then used the land to build the housing estate along with the Police Station, Library and Health Centre.

Other uses meant the Bevin Boys had to move between Mansfield’s two Hostels

These changes of use meant there was a lot of Bevin Boys movement between the Forest Town and Abbot Road Hostels, as shown by one of the Bevin Boys Identity Card.

  • 10 Jan 1945 at Abbot Road
  • 15 Mar 1945 at Forest Town
  • 31 Aug 1945 at Abbot Road
  • 12 May 1950 at Forest Town

This is a summary of the information included in the ‘Forest Town Hostel 1944 – 1959’ (2002) by Malcolm & Pauline Marples. (Now out of print)


Other Photographs of the Forest Town Hostel


Comments about this page

  • My Aunt and Uncle lived in one of the Nissan Hits as we used to call them, on Abbott Rd/Westfield Lane in the 50s till they were rehoused when they were pulling them down. I found them to be quite warm then, being only 7yrs old, maybe would not think so now.

    By Patricia Davies/Campion (27/03/2022)
  • The Forest Town camp was known as the Pole camp, the occupants were a thirsty bunch who would throw their empty beer bottles out of the hut windows. Us youngsters would supplement our pocket money by collecting these and taking them to the Ravensdale pub off sales for threepence each. Our enterprising scheme was eventually knocked on the head when the publican caught one joker taking empty bottles from crates at the back of the pub to the off sales, thus cutting out the need to visit the camp.

    By philip tatley (17/12/2021)
  • My husband’s grandparents lived in a small holding off Abbott Road and the Bevin Boys camp was situated at the side of their property.
    To locate the area, come up Abbott Road from Chesterfield Road to around the crest of the hill, Water Lane (Old Water Lane as it is now) is on the right, on the opposite side of the road was a track that led to the small holdings, the camp was situated to the right of this track and extended all the way across to Westfield Lane, it went back to around the site now occupied by a convenience store on the left hand side of Westfield Lane.
    After the Bevin Boys left some of the Nissan huts were demolished but some remained and were used to house families for a time.
    The smallholdings and huts are all long gone, the land was taken over by the Council who built small blocks of flats and bungalows on it.

    By Jenny Wright (25/06/2020)
  • Does anyone know exactly where the Abbott Road Miners was ? My Polish father , Rudolph Golabowski lived there until his marriage in 1949. Paul Nixon (via Editors)

    By Editors (25/06/2020)
  • I think my father may of been at this hostel or Ripley, He came from Hungary in 1956 and first went to Derbyshire Miners camp to learn English then think he went down the mines

    By Milly Vigh (10/03/2019)
  • A few notes on the ultimate demise of the Hostel. The hostel site was ‘dismantled’ and cleared by a small Leicester firm (Frank Coombes & Co Ltd) during a five week period over August & September 1960. Fixtures and fittings such as doors, cupboards, shelves, sinks and baths were made available to the public for nominal amounts. Prices were reasonable with many people taking advantage of a discounted price for self-removal. For instance, a door and frame ready dismantled cost 12/6d but only 10/6d if you knocked it out yourself! Dressed bricks were £5 per 1000. Concrete and brick hard-core was free. After everything had been salvaged, raising about £2000, the 106 Nissen Huts on the 6.5 acre site were all found new owners through an auction sale held in early September. I don’t have any information on how much the huts made at auction.

    By Berisford Jones (25/10/2012)
  • I am doing some research on the village for an assignment, and I’ve lived in Forest Town for 28 years, Is there anyone who could tell me what colour the football kit was in the picture above please.. This is information I am struggling to find.. I would be greatful if someone could help me.. Kind regards

    By Heather Skeavington (14/09/2011)
  • I lived in the hostel while working in the coalmine in 1957. Myself and a friend Seamus McCormack travelled from Ireland for work. We did enjoy our time there. I Remember the canteen and the girls who worked there very well. I did go back but there was a housing estate in its place. Great to see this site and the memories. TS

    By Tom Smith (15/01/2011)
  • My sister Lily worked there when it was home to Polish men and she met her husband Max.

    By arthur wright (22/10/2010)

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