"Some Edwalton Tales "
October 2007 Meeting Report
Guest Speaker - John Hall
The October meeting of The Keyworth & District Local History Society was held in The Centenary Lounge on Friday, 5th October 2007. The guest speaker for the evening was John Hall who entertained us with ‘Some Edwalton Tales’. The presentation was in the form of a slide show accompanied with a talk.
John began his presentation by introducing the audience to five Edwalton villagers, past and present, around which his talk would revolve. John then showed the audience photographs of the five persons in question. John began with a brief history of the village. It is believed that Edwalton was probably first settled around the year 800AD. A Saxon, (or possibly an Angle), named Aedwald is reputed to be the founder of the village. Edwalton is situated on a hill about 130 feet above the level of the River Trent. The land that Aedwald settled was poorly drained and had a tendency to be of a boggy nature. Since Aedwald first settled there the village has been essentially of a farming nature. Edwalton was a farming community and it is only in its relatively recent history that that has ceased to be the case. Neither has the village ever been very populous. Indeed, prior to 1800 there was hardly ever a time when more than twenty or so families lived there which tended to equate to around a hundred people.
No church is mentioned at Edwalton in the Doomsday Book and villagers had to conduct their worship at Flawforth Church. However, by 1170 a small church had been built. The church was dedicated to The Holy Rood and still exists today. Edwalton does get a mention in the Doomsday Book; a person named Goda is recorded as owning six bovates of land in the village. The name Goda is more familiar to us as Godiva, and it is that famous medieval streaker that is referred to in the Doomsday book.
After the church the next oldest house is a farmhouse dating to around 1700, aptly named The Old House. The house is located on Village Lane. From that time onwards a succession of farmhouses and farm-workers’ cottages have sprung up in the village. However, most of the land that the farms occupied has disappeared and is now has houses built upon it. There is one section of ridge-and-furrow remaining though adjacent to the village and this is all that remains of Edwalton’s agricultural heritage. Even as recently as 1881 the Census returns only show around 125 persons living in the village.
After this brief description of Edwalton’s history John went on to introduce five people, who for him, had played an interesting role in the everyday life of the village. The first of these five people to be introduced was The Honourable Mrs Mariah Chaworth-Musters. Mariah has been a widow for approximately twenty years now since the death of her late husband, Major Robert Chaworth-Musters. When the couple were married it was the second marriage for both of them, and since they had no children together Mariah is now the sole surviving member of this old established family. Indeed, Mariah can trace her family back to the time of the Norman Conquest. One of her more famous forebears, Robert Fitzranulph, is reputed to be one of the knights involved in the murder of Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. The Chaworth’s had been associated with Edwalton for hundreds of years, though the family owned land throughout south Notts. In the 18th century Viscount Chaworth had Annesley Hall built and the family connection with Edwalton began to diminish. In 1785 George Chaworth, who happened to be illegitimate, inherited the family title and became Viscount Chaworth. George would seem to have been a bit of a lad and surprised everyone by marrying his housekeeper, named Anne Bainbridge, who was the daughter of a local farmer. Within a year Anne had presented the Viscount with a daughter, Mary Anne, and the family lived at Annesley Hall. However, it wasn’t too long before George tired of the relationship and left his wife to set up home with his mistress. In 1791 George died and his daughter, Mary Ann, who was only five years old, inherited the title. At the age of eleven Mary Ann went to London where she met the infamous Lord Byron. Mary Ann however fell in love with Jack Musters and the couple were married in 1805 and went to live in Colwick Hall. The family name then changed to Chaworth Musters and, despite the marriage reputed not to have been a particularly happy one, Mary Ann bore her husband eight children. Jack and Mary Ann had a new house built in the village named Edwalton Hall and this became the largest house in the village. Mary Ann died in the 1830’s and it was after her death that the family slowly disposed of their land at Edwalton.
In 1880 Edwalton became the first station on the Midland Railway line to Melton Mowbray. Why the railway decided to invest in building a station at such a small farming village remains something of a mystery, the more so since neither West Bridgford or Tollerton. However, what the railway station did do was make Edwalton very convenient for Nottingham. So it was that new properties began to be built in the village for wealthy Nottingham residents who wished to live somewhere close to the city but away from all those unpleasant aspects that blighted large, industrialized Victorian towns and cities. These new properties were all architect designed and were very imposing buildings. One of the new arrivals into the village in the 1880’s was a Mr Harvey Haddon, a Nottingham businessman, whose name lives on at the sports stadium in Bilborough that bears his name.
One day, another Nottingham businessman, whilst taking his wife and two daughters for a ride in his pony and trap, happened to chance upon Edwalton and was so enamoured of the village that he decided that he would like to live there. The man’s name was Tommy Shipstone, the famous Nottingham brewer. Tommy was the second of the five personalities that John wanted to introduce the audience to. Tommy and his family moved into Edwalton Hall in 1891. Tommy’s father had opened a brewery on Mansfield Road in the 1850’s and the business thrived. The population of Nottingham at that time was around 60-70,000 so there was a sizeable market for the Shipstone products. Tommy married a girl named Eliza and the family settled down in a house by the River Trent near County Hall. Since the Trent was prone to flood on a regular basis at that time it wasn’t too long before the family decided to move to higher ground. Hence the expedition in the pony and trap looking for somewhere else to live. Tommy and his family threw themselves into village-life. Tommy became a pillar of the church at Edwalton whilst his wife and daughters concerned themselves with many aspects of life in the village. One of Tommy’s great passions was horses, particularly horseracing. He owned horses of his own which he took great pleasure in training. In fact Tommy had a stud of horses in the village. He also enjoyed foxhunting and rode with the South Notts Hunt. A particular foible of Tommy’s was his bowler hat; he was reputed never to be seen out in public without wearing it. The Shipstone family lived in Edwalton until 1908, moving back to Nottingham that year to live in a house on Adams Hill at Lenton Firs. Tommy’s wife Eliz died in 1919, four years before he received a knighthood from King George V. Tommy himself died in 1940 and his funeral was attended by thousands of mourners. Tommy’s daughter Nan, however, returned to Edwalton when she married and continued the family presence in the village.
The new occupant of Edwalton Hall was Jessie Hind, who paid the princely sum of £6,000 for the property. Jessie Hind was a Nottingham solicitor. He was Clerk to the County Council. Even into the twentieth century Edwalton still remained a small, mainly agricultural village with a scattering of substantial residential buildings. Jessie’s second son was named Oliver and he was the third subject of John’s presentation. Like his father, he too was a solicitor. One of Oliver’s passions was the welfare of Nottingham’s deprived boys. To this end he was a great devotee of The Boys Brigade and he was instrumental in establishing the organization in Nottingham. He bought premises in Dakin Street, Nottingham for the society to meet in and so successful was the venture that it became the single largest Boys Brigade unit in the world with between 300 and 400 boys on its books at any one time. He also bought land alongside the River Trent where the boys could play football and other outdoor games. Shortly after the Great War a group of boys from the club wished to emigrate to Canada where they though that their prospects would be better than they would be in England. Oliver was approached to see if he could help and he immediately lent his support to the enterprise. So successful was the venture that a steady trickle of boys emigrated to Canada and, with the help of the Canadian Government, a new set of clubs, called the Oliver Watts Hinds Boys Clubs were established.
Another of Oliver’s interests involved Green’s Windmill. Oliver bought the mill, which at the time was in a very sorry condition; indeed, many people thought that the best thing to do with it was to demolish it. Fortunately Oliver thought otherwise, he capped the mill with a new copper roof and generally went about making the building usable again. Though it wasn’t used for milling again the building was rented out to various businesses. When the mill was renovated in the 1980’s the general feeling was that had it not been for Oliver’s intervention then the mill would have declined to such an extent that renovation would not have been a practical proposition. After being a bachelor all his life Oliver took the plunge and got married, at the age of 51, to a lady named Mary Davidson. The couple continued to live at Edwalton and had three daughters there. One of the great sadnesses in Oliver’s life concerned the loss of his younger brother, Lawrence, who, as a Lieutenant Colonel commanded the Robin Hood Rifles. Lawrence was killed in 1916 at the battle of the Somme. As a memorial to his younger brother Oliver had two alms-houses built at Edwalton in 1927 and these were dedicated to the memory of Lawrence. Oliver died in 1932 and the funeral was held in the Church of the Holy Rood at Edwalton. Oliver’s wife, however, continued to live at Edwalton until the early 1950’s.
John next introduced the fourth of his Edwalton characters, namely Charlie Mills. Charlie was a big strong lad and served with The Grenadier Guards in the war. After the war he joined the police force but it wasn’t long before he tired of the job and moved back to Edwalton where he worked as an odd-job man. He looked after the church graveyard and was also the village postman. It was a common sight to see Charlie with a set of sweeps brushes attached to his handlebars whilst delivering the daily mail. As a part of his church duties he was responsible for digging new graves, an occupation which he tended to carry out at night under the light of a Tilley lamp. It seems that Charlie would stick a stake into the ground where he was about to commence work and place a human skull on top of it. No one seems to know where the skull came from but it kept Charlie company whilst he was involved in his nocturnal excavations. During the Second World War Charlie gained something of a reputation as someone who could always lay his hands on things that were in short supply, a particularly handy attribute when so many things were scare due to rationing. Charlie took it upon himself to try and ensure that nobody in the village went unnecessarily short of anything if he could help it.
The fifth, and last, of John’s characters was Tom Kew who was born in 1924. Tom is the only one of the five who is still alive although he is now into his eighties. Tom began his working life in the village at Shatlock’s Farm. He had an interest in things mechanical and it wasn’t long before he became responsible for looking after the tractors on the farm. When the farm changed hands following, the owner’s death, Tom felt that it was time to move away from the land and in 1959 went to work for Cripps, the famous Nottingham motor company. John and Tom meet every week for a chat and a coffee, indeed, John says that the amount of local information and knowledge that he has acquired from these talks has been invaluable.