Sunday, 26 April 2015

Shakespeare in Loughborough: Macbeth, pubs and, um framework knitters!

Shakespeare in Loughborough

Last week was the birthday of our most famous playwright, William Shakespeare, who was born on 23 April 1564. Incidentally, he also died on 23 April, 52 years later in 1616. So, what better way to celebrate the occasion by experiencing a production of one of his plays, in Loughborough itself.

The Festival Players are a Loughborough-based amateur dramatic society, who began life in 1954. The history of the society  shows that they have played many types of productions, including musicals, and plays in many genres. However, I couldn’t find a mention of any Shakespeare in there, so I’m assuming that last week’s performance of Macbeth was a first for them. And what a first it was!

The Festival Players were lucky enough to be taking part in The Royal Shakespeare Company’s Open Stages initiative, which gives selected amateur performers access to workshops, support and mentoring from the RSC, and this was evident in FP’s Macbeth, especially in the battle scenes, which felt realistic, and yet safe!

The acting was great, the set was versatile, and the whole atmosphere dark and scary, made all the more realistic by the venue – Sir Robert Martin Theatre at the university – having a floor level stage area, rather than a traditional raised stage. Interestingly, the inaugural production of the Festival Players - Young Wives’ Tale - took place in Martin Hall, which is the building in which the Sir Robert Martin Theatre is found.
In their time, the Festival Players have played in Stanford Hall Theatre, in Martin Hall, Hind Leys Theatre, The Cope Auditorium, and Loughborough Town Hall.

Back to Shakespeare though. As he is our most famous playwright, I suppose it is to be expected that there will be plenty of things named after him. I’m thinking roads, pubs, theatres etc.. We know Daniel Defoe – he of Robinson Crusoe fame – passed through Loughborough, and wasn’t hugely impressed, suggesting our little market town was of no note, but I wonder if Shakespeare ever passed through? He must surely have known Francis Beaumont (1584 – 6 March 1616), born at Grace Dieu and (I think) a descendant of the former Lords of the Manor, a fellow playwright who also wrote for the King’s Men. Beaumont often collaborated with John Fletcher, and in his turn Fletcher collaborated with Shakespeare on Henry VIII, the play said to be jinxed as it was during a production of this play that the Globe Theatre in London burnt down.

The former Shakespeare / Crown & Thistle

Anyway, at one time, and certainly in 1889, we had a pub called the Shakespeare, on Sparrow Hill. This changed its name to the Crown and Thistle, closing in 1922, and latterly being a flower shop owned by Sid Powell, which can be found next to Caravelli’s. Of course, we still have Shakespeare Street in town – just like other places have, e.g. Nottingham, Southport, Newcastle, Lincoln, and Glasgow – which has Shakespeare Street School at the end of it. This locally listed building in gothic-revival style has had various uses over the years, including being used by the university for its chemistry department (I think it was chemistry) and as an annex for Limehurst School.

Moving from Loughborough to Leicester, we find there was a Shakespeare’s Head pub on Southfields Road, although this can have had no relation to Shakespeare the bard, as the name was actually the Shakespeares Head, a grammar error that Shakespeare is unlikely to have made! This 1960s pub closed in 2012 and has recently re-opened as a sports bar, grill and café called the Fat Budha. There is also a pub called The Globe in Leicester, on Silver Street, which has been going since the 1720s. Rather naively and until relatively recently, I thought this was some reference to Shakespeare, but I now know this is a reference to the framework knitters who may well have drunk here: The globe refers to a globe-shaped glass cover that the framework knitters placed over their candle in order to better spread the light whilst they were working on the frame. And I’d better stop there before I completely lose you! Sorry, this week’s post has turned out to be a bit of a ramble, but I do hope you’ve found it entertaining!


Sunday, 19 April 2015

Market Place sale

Particulars and plan of an important freehold property suitable for redevelopment ...

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may remember a while ago I wrote a short article about the Drs Eddowes, who ran a practice in Market Place?

A recent chance find when I was rummaging around at a postcard fair were some sales particulars for a short row of shops in Market Place These shops were up for auction in April 1961, and the auctioneers in question were Messrs Garton (who appear in several of my earlier blogposts – Loughborough and the opening of the Temperance Hall, Spotlight on: 54 Baxter Gate, and rather tenuously on Ghost signs of Loughborough Part 2).    


The solicitors concerned with the sale of these properties were Moss, Toone and Deane (the only connections on this blog so far, is that Henry John Deane used to live at 145 Ashby Road ) who were based in 80-82 Woodgate. Although this solicitor’s practice has been through various partnerships and are now known simply as Moss Solicitors, they are still based in 80-82 Woodgate.

The shops in question were numbers 5, 6 and 6a Market Place, and were Easiephit (men’s shoes and fashion shoes), Maypole (which looks like a grocers, and is advertising butter and tea, and is listed inside the particulars as Maypole Dairy Co Ltd.), and The Home and Colonial Stores (again selling tea). Just to the left of Easiephit, was Melia’s (possibly number 4), and to the right was Charnwood Chambers (possibly number 7, or 7a).

As early as 1828, and for many years after that, the Eddowes doctors lived and worked in number 6 Market Place. What I’m not sure about is whether the building shown in the sales particulars is as old as 1828, or whether the surgeons would have lived in an older property on the same plot. I do know that William Godber, who was killed in action during WW1, worked as a grocers assistant at the Maypole Dairy in Market Place, so I’m sure the building is pre-WW1, but not sure it’s as old as 1828.  

Of course, numbers 5, 6 and 6a Market Place are no longer there, having been demolished around 1975 when what was then the Charnwood Precinct (now Carillon Court) was built. Charnwood Chambers, however, which is next to number 6, is still standing and whilst once it was MacFisheries, it now houses Café Nero. Melia’s, next to number 5, was demolished and replaced by the building that is now TopShop. 

What’s also interesting about these particular shops is that the sales brochure includes a rough plan of the shops that were in existence in 1961. This makes for interesting reading, and surprisingly, some of these shops were still in the same location in 1981 when I came to Loughborough. And, as if that wasn’t enough, the brochure comes with a pull out plan of the exact properties and outbuildings that are for sale. So, as well as the ground floor shops, there is also upstairs accommodation which, at the time, was let to Loughborough Club Co Ltd. and also over Melia’s. And, there was a workshop, occupied by Metalcraft Ltd., which was approached from Angel Yard. And, there was also a store and a garage in Angel Yard which were occupied by Messers. Wills & Hepworth Ltd. (of which more in a future post!).

From the page headed “Contract” it would appear that the owner of the shops was Arnold Montague Barrowcliff, a retired architect, and receiver of the Military Cross for his part in WW1. Arnold, who was living on Burton Street at the time of this sale, was the son of George Harry Barrowcliff of the architectural partnership, Barrowcliff and Allcock, who, amongst other things, in 1903-5 designed the public library in Granby Street.
Arnold Montague Barrowcliff's House today

The auction for these shops was held at the King’s Head Hotel, on Thursday 27th April, 1961, at 3pm. I have no idea who the buyer was, but when I find out I will be sure to share this with you! 



Sunday, 12 April 2015

Stoneywell Cottage

A visit to Stoneywell!

After an exciting week in Leicester, I now find myself, not quite back in Loughborough, but in Charnwood!
You may have noticed that National Trust properties are in very short supply in Leicestershire, but I have no idea why! Of course, Loughborough being close to the county borders, does mean that there are a couple of NT things nearby, like Calke Abbey, Kedleston Hall, Duffield Castle, Sudbury Hall, and Southwell Workhouse. What I hadn’t realised though, was that although Calke Abbey is in Derbyshire, Staunton Harold Reservoir is in Leicestershire!

I also hadn’t realised that there is an NT nature reserve in Ulverscroft, although access to this is restricted to permit holders. So, how wonderful it is to now have the lovely Arts and Crafts home that is Stoneywell, in the hands of the NT, and now open for visitors.

In order to visit Stoneywell one has to book in advance. This is because it’s a very small property, and visitors are shown around in small groups, by well-trained, well-informed guides. Access to Stoneywell is via the minibus which can be picked up at the dedicated Stoneywell car park. The journey is only a couple of minutes, and the driver will tell you a little bit about the place en route.
When you get there, you arrive at the stables, and are greeted by someone who takes your payment and books you onto the tour. Another guide then tells you a bit more about the property, and, if you have to wait for your tour, you can wander around the stables, or walk around the gardens, as long as you’re ready and waiting outside the house at your allotted tour time.

The house, seemingly bursting out of the rock, was built in 1899: We know this from the lintel over the front door, which has the date carved into it. The house was a real surprise to me as I was expecting it to be tiny, but actually, it was very large, and all higgledy-piggledy, and full of exciting features!

The guide we were assigned took us through the house and made everything come alive! He really knew his stuff and was able to talk to us about almost everything we could see in the house, which was a large amount of furniture made by either Ernest Gimson or the Barnsley brothers in the early days of the twentieth century, and many other artefacts from the 1940s and 1950s, which were things that the last Gimson owner (Donald, until 2012) would have been familiar with.

Some of my favourite things were the books shelves just under the line of the ceiling in the lounge, and the bookcases made especially to fit spaces in the bedrooms. I also loved the Orkney Chair, the tiny little radiators that were fitted in about 1965, the beautiful chess set that Donald made in 1985, using a wine bottle box in which to store the pieces, Donald’s pipes sitting in their stand on a bookcase, his shaving brush in its shaving mug on the side of the sink, and the 1950s foot warmer on the bed!

Of course, the dining table, made to be used, was pretty spectacular, as were the dining chairs and the beds!

Although we were quite a large group, there was ample space within the rooms to see everything, and our guide made sure everyone got a chance to look at all the interesting things, and not get left behind. Some of the stairs were quite steep and narrow, but if Donald Gimson could climb these when he was well into his 80s then so could we!!

 Once we’d been on the tour of the house, we had plenty of time to explore the gardens: The gardeners were out in force when we went, and some were working on the kitchen gardens, turning them back into such, planting potatoes, tying up raspberry canes and planting out herbs. The grass tennis courts were immaculate, the daffodils were out in force, and the ground was springy with bracken.

At the little rocky outcrop called the fort, we pretended to be on the lookout for “baddies” and imagined ourselves playing as the little Gimson children, so lucky to have such a wonderful place to play and run around in. 

We also stopped to look into the stables, which hadn’t changed much from the picture one of the guides showed us from the early 1900s! Inside were many interesting artefacts, including a suitcase full of leather horse harnesses, a horseshoe on the wall and a lovely knife-grinder. Originally, the NT were going to have their offices upstairs in the loft, but bats were in residence, so plans had to be changed so as not to disturb them.

Stoneywell Tearooms
On the day we visited the little tearoom was so overcrowded that we didn’t stop for refreshments, but we would have liked to have done. Instead, we hopped into the mini bus, collected our car, and made our way to Ulverscroft Grange, where we sipped our drinks whilst looking out over the valley.
The view from Ulverscroft Grange Tearooms











Saturday, 4 April 2015


Museums in Loughborough

Well, back in Loughborough, after a long week in Leicester, I see Spring has sprung, Easter is upon us and we all know what that means - Yes! The museums in town are now open for their summer season hours!

The Carillon Tower and War Memorial includes three rooms of artefacts, the clavier chamber, the carillon bells themselves, as well as a roll of honour to those who gave their lives in WW1 (and later conflicts). Entry to the ground floor exhibits are free, whilst the upper floors are accessible on payment of a small charge (£1). The carillon is played twice a week, at 1pm on a Thursday and Sunday (I think). The opening hours for the museum are: 1-4.30pm everyday, apart from Monday when it is closed all day. You can find the Carillon in Queen's Park Loughborough, close to the bandstand, the aviaries and the ...

... Charnwood Museum. Charnwood Museum tells the fascinating story of Loughborough and its environs, covering early history - think Walking ON dinosaurs, rather than Walking WITH dinosaurs - the geology of the area - "small areas of Precambrian and lower Cambrian rocks in Charnwood Forest and the unconformable overlying Carboniferous cover." - through framework knitting to rubbish tips, to Ladybird Books, and Edward Elgar music scripts. As well as the permanent displays, there are two exhibition areas which are used for temporary events - displays of local work, of national events, and exhibitions mostly relevant to the local area. The museum is FREE to visit, and the opening hours for the summer are: Tuesday - Saturday 10.00-4.30, Sunday 2-5pm. Beside the museum, with an entrance from the museum and from Queen's Park itself, is the Café in the Park.

Both the above museums are on facebook:

The Carillon

Charnwood Museum

Situated in the Heritage Quarter of Loughborough, next to the Parish Church (aka the Church of All Saints with Holy Trinity), is the former rectory, known as the Old Rectory, which was the home of the former vicars of the adjacent church. The building that is still standing is a 13th century stone-built manor house, which although extended many times over the years, is all that is left of the former prestigious house. Inside there is an exhibition area which houses a different display each year, whilst upstairs there are display cases which show the history of the building, the area, and even some local firms. Last year, I visited the museum and wrote about my experience. The Old Rectory Museum is FREE to enter (I think), and can be found on Rectory Place, very close to the Parish Church, and is open every Saturday, April - October, 11.00-3pm.

The final museum I would like to mention is Taylor's Bellfoundry museum. This museum is spread over two floors, and includes things like bells from different era made by different founders, artefacts pertaining to bell founding, and also has a shop which sells many bell-related items. You can take yourself around the museum, but to get the very best experience, guided tours are also offered (these must be pre-booked). The museum is a little way from the town centre, on Freehold Street, and is generally open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 10.00 - 12 noon, and 2.00 - 4pm, although it is advisable to check before making the journey. There is a small charge of approx. £4 for entry.

For an account of my visit to the Great Central Railway Museum, which is open during times the station is open, please follow this link.