Widmerpool Look Back
How times change. The minute book of the parish council for May 1986 reported that the end of year accounts showed a balance in hand of just £85.90. Just over 30 years later, the total has grown into four figures.
In 2019 all parish councils held elections, and would-be new members put their names forward as candidates. If there are more candidates than there are seats on the council, an election is held under the auspices of Rushcliffe Borough Council.
But that wasn’t always the case. It was only in 1970 that Widmerpool took the decision to upgrade its standing and elect a parish council to run its affairs. That council is still operating today – obviously with different members – but with the same aim: to improve the life of Widmerpool residents.
Prior to 1970 parish affairs were dealt with at an annual parish meeting and any important decisions were conveyed to Widmerpool’s representative on Bingham Rural District Council.
Back in 1970 it was a very busy time in the village, because in June the new parish council was elected and, on July 30th, the first official parish council meeting was held in the then village hall. The councillors were: CG Brooks, Rex Griffith (chairman), Mrs Russell, Mrs Screaton, Tony Wooley, E Wincup and R Wadkin.
Before Rushcliffe Borough Council was created in 1974 every village had their own representative on the Bingham Rural District Council. And, in some peoples’ view, small villages were better represented in those days, whereas now a single councillor may look after three or four villages.
At the end of the 20th century the Council members were: CG Brooks, Tony Hill, Al Jones, Geoff Garratt, Mrs Rosemary Long, Mrs B Thurrel, A Woodhouse (Chairman). Reg Thurrel was the excellent clerk to the council and because there was no village hall, meetings were held in the Automobile Association Hall.
One of Widmerpool village’s social events was Betty Breakfast, which was started by Betty Broadbent in the late 1990s. Betty was a great doer for anything in the village. She held the first breakfast in her house and future events always took place in early January. They eventually became so popular that, with about 80 people attending, they had to move from the village to Willoughby Village Hall.
The village also organised a Harvest Supper which, at the turn of the century, had been going for about fifteen or sixteen years. The first few were held in the Cricket Pavilion, but they too moved to Willoughby Village Hall when the number of attendees increased.
Another event during that period was the Safari supper. And there was also the village picnic, which was held in June or July on the Beehive Lawn.
Many residents often echo the comment, “Oh! How nice it would be to turn the clock back and have the same social type events today.”
Daily Life in Widmerpool Years Ago
What day-to-day life would have been like in Widmerpool at the beginning of the century is highlighted here in the words of Geoff Brooks and taken from his book "Widmerpool, a century of change - 1900 to 2000".
For a start the main family names of people living in Widmerpool at the turn of the century were Barnett, Bean, Brooks, Camm, Hallam, Hulls, Lane, Mariott, Rimmer, Simpson and Stokes. Many of the farms, and some of the houses, that they lived in were built from grey limestone, which was actually quarried in the village, on the side of the Keyworth Road in the area known as The Stone Pits.
Lighting would be from oil lamps and candles, water from wells, using the hand pump. One pump would serve four or five cottages. The main services that we know today didn’t arrive until much later in the century. Electricity didn’t come to Widmerpool until around 1937. Mr & Mrs Harry Lane were the first people to have the telephone connected in the village. It was very exciting when the telephone was put in at Grange Farm and Manor Farm, and the numbers were 2324 and 2325 respectively (they are still the same numbers to this day).
Rene Skinner was one of the middle daughters of Frank Brooks. She tells us that in the depression years, up until 1939, when there was very little money in farming, they had to live off the land and use what ever they could catch to eat. They would make rabbit pie, rook pie, pigeon pie, they were delicious. Mother used to make boiled puddings and also apple dumplings in a pudding bag.
Cooking would be done on black leaded grates or kitchen ranges burning coal and wood. These would also have a dual effect of heating water as well. Most places also had a separate fire based copper for heating and washing. They would also have a long tin bath which would be brought in to the house and they would have a bath in front of the kitchen fire.
Washdays were always Monday and many a time children would help mother with the dolly pegs and big mangles for wringing out the wet washing. If the weather turned wet how we detested the smell of damp washing being dried and aired in the kitchen.
Monica Bonsor also has many memories of daily life: I remember water being pumped up from an old pump in the back yard at Grange Farm. It was very hard water and awful to wash in.
Carpets would be virtually non-existent apart from a piece in the front room. The rest would be lino and home made pegged rugs scattered over the floor. These would be made in the evenings with the children helping, they’d also help with any other chores that needed doing like washing eggs, chopping sticks, getting logs and coal in.
People in the village didn’t go out to town a lot in olden days. Wheatcrofts, Potters, Thurmans and Collingtons delivered all groceries, meat etc. Milk was obtained from the farms. For some families the doctor came from Sutton Bonington his name was Dr Beatty. He had been a family doctor for years and years and agreed to come over to Widmerpool. Dr Rind from Keyworth attended a lot in the village, also Dr Swann from Costock (later Sutton Bonington). Dr Swann had a brother, John who was a surgeon when I was very ill in 1939. I was one of the very first patients that Mr John Swann operated on. He was my life saver!!
To travel to Nottingham, Derby, Leicester or anywhere further afield the villagers would cycle to the station, now the Pullman Inn, and leave their bikes in the big hut opposite the station. They would then catch what was called the milk train because it took the early morning milk to Nottingham.
The work in the early days was hard and the hours were long and so there was very little spare time and people had to make their own entertainment. There were no computer games or televisions, so how did they spend their spare time?
Whist drives were played regularly. According to Mrs Hull, "Whist Drives were played two to three times a week during the 1930s and 1940s. The young ones were terrified to play a wrong card, the old ones were on you like a ton of bricks."
Up until the war there were various inter-village challenges including darts and rounders. Soon after the end of the Second World War the Villages Cricket Club was started up again however no one was allowed to play on the cricket pitch on a Sunday and so cricket and various other games would be played on a Sunday in the Brook’s back yard.
There would be dancing in the old school, where England Notts cricket star Reg Simpson Lived, and someone would play the piano.
Fishing in the Fairholme Brook was a popular pastime for the young ones. Often their fishing rod consistent of a cane, and the line and bait was a piece of thread with a bent pin attached to a feather, which served as the float. Amazingly, it worked very well.
When the stream was frozen we could skate for miles along it. If you couldn’t skate, you’d have a chair on the reservoir by Grange Farm.
In the early 1950s the Women’s Institute used to have an annual Summer Canning Day at Manor Farm, in the washhouse. Apricots, peaches, tomatoes, bought from the wholesale market were peeled, scalded then put into the canning machine to make 2lb and 1lb cans. Everyone took home their own produce now canned. There were no fridges at that time and so this meant out of season fruit and vegetables could be eaten all year round.
After AA took over the hall, for the first few Christmases, Major Dootson, the bursar, organized a children’s party. The AA helicopter hovered over the hall with Santa and gifts. Then there was a party and games - this was a great event. This revived the tradition of children’s parties from the time when the Hutton’s were at the hall. These were marvellous times for the young people of he village. Sadly very little is available in the village for the young people today.
Harold Gasgoine remembers that there were Sunday school outings to Cleethorpes, and various other places. Harold lives at Ivy Cottage, aptly named as it was covered by ivy. Mr Humphrey the parson lived there before that. Harold’s farther was chauffer to Major Robertson.