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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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:
- 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)
Produced as their project for the NOTTINGHAMSHIRE LIVING HISTORY ARCHIVE MILLENIUM AWARD
Other Photographs of the Forest Town Hostel