Sunday, 29 May 2016

Loughborough Union Workhouse

A couple of months ago I finally got around to visiting the workhouse at Southwell, which is now a National Trust property, but was once a workhouse for the surrounding areas, where people who were down on their luck could go to get a roof over their head and food in their belly. 

I hope I haven't made that sound too attractive, for it certainly wasn't, and for many reasons people would try and avoid getting into the position where they needed help from a workhouse. Could it have had something to do with the prison-like buildings (I searched for workhouse plans on the internet, and followed this up with a search for prison plans and couldn't help but notice the similarity of design, particularly with Wandsworth Prison)? Or perhaps it was the strict wearing of uniforms that deterred folk? Or was it the arduous tasks, like stone crushing and oakum picking that people were put to that kept them away from the workhouse? Or maybe the food wasn't up to much - relatively plain, but enough to keep you going? Or maybe it was the idea that you would be separated from your family that meant you only went to the workhouse as a truly last and desperate measure?

Of course, workhouses across the country, whilst being similar, were not all the same, some being more generous with food rations than others, some having kitchen gardens where "inmates" would work, etc.. 

The Loughborough Workhouse was originally on the site now occupied by the Post Office Sorting Office, on Nottingham Road, at its junction with the A60. The new Loughborough Union Workhouse was built in 1838, after the passing of the Poor Law Amendment Act (the New Poor Law), which meant that people had to enter the workhouse in order to seek help, rather than be given money by the local parish. It was located on Derby Road, behind what are now Oxford and Leopold Streets, and on Regent Street. It was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott and W. Bonython Moffatt, to a design which they used very successfully in many locations. In about 1871, the former workhouse on Nottingham Road became the Star Foundry, under Edwin Cook.

Following the Local Government Act of 1929, which abolished Poor Law Unions and the Board of Guardians, workhouses were controlled by public assistance authorities which were run by local councils. And so it was in 1930 that the Loughborough Union Workhouse became a public assistance institution and was renamed Hastings House. This was followed by another change around 1948 when it was renamed as the Regent Hospital: as might be inferred from the name it became a hospital as well as an old people's home.

I used to live at the Regent Street end of Oxford Street in the early 1980s and I remember Regent Hospital as it was then. I also remember it being demolished and new houses being built on the site. Regrettably, I don't remember exactly when this happened, nor did I take any photographs. 

As well as the new houses that were built, a new care home, Huntingdon Court, was also built on the site.

Pictures of the workhouse have been hard to come by, but there is one of the Board of Guardians outside the workhouse in the early twentieth century, a picture of the Guardians' Boardroom, and the workhouse appears in the background of this picture of terraced houses on Union Lane/Street.

There is also an interesting article on the workhouse, and other Loughborough information on this site.

And now I've run out of time, and haven't even got to the point I was heading to! Pop back to the blog next week for more on the connection between George Hodson, the Loughborough Union Workhouse, Zeppelin raids and a tramp! In the meantime, below are some photographs from my recent visit to Southwell Workhouse.
Southwell Workhouse with the kitchen garden to the front

The water pump at Southwell Workhouse

A boot scraper at Southwell Workhouse

The stone crushing yard at Southwell Workhouse

A view today from below stairs at Southwell Workhouse

Below stairs at Southwell Workhouse

Pots at Southwell Workhouse

Beds for the elderly and infirm at Southwell Workhouse

An upstairs room in Southwell Workhouse
The entrance to Southwell Workhouse

Clothes drying at Southwell Workhouse
Below stairs at Southwell Workhouse

Below stairs at Southwell Workhouse

The separate yards at Southwell Workhouse

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Coffee houses to coffee shops

The local paper, The Loughborough Echo of Wednesday 27 April 2016 had a front page headline proclaiming that cafes are good for the town! A study of people's shopping habits by the university revealed that if people partook of the offerings of a cafe in town they were more likely to stay in town after being refreshed and do more shopping. Interesting!

I think there had previously been some concern expressed by townsfolk that cafes were taking over the town, a bit like at one time it was banks, and then it was charity shops! I think there may also have been a bit of a worry that the chain coffee shops would drive the local independent ones out of town, but as far as I can see this doesn't seem to be happening (although, ok, I agree I'm not privvy to the balance books).

So, yes there do seem to be quite a lot of cafes in town, but they do all seem to offer something different. I can't critique them all as I've not visited all of them - good grief, where would I find the time?! I will, perhaps, mention a few later, or post some pics.

Thinking about the coffee shops that we have in town at the moment set me to thinking about the coffee shops of the past, often known as coffee houses, and way back when, as the penny universities. Ok, way back when would have been the 17th and 18th centuries, and people would meet in the coffee houses to discuss topics of interest (like politics, fashion etc.) and gossip. Of course, there were also public houses (alehouses), but without alcohol it was possible to have more serious cultural and intellectual conversations. 

The coffee houses of these days also sold tea and chocolate, each of which cost 1d, which, along with the tenor of the conversations, is how they came to be known as penny universities. I really don't know if Loughborough had any such coffee houses.

These establishments went out of favour for a while, but came back with a vengeance in the 19th century. This resurgence was orchestrated by the Temperance movement, and came in response to the popularity of the public house. Proponents of the Temperance movement set these coffee houses up for the working class population, a place where they could meet that was free of alcohol. Loughborough certainly did have coffee houses of this nature, notably in the building on the corner of Granby Street and Devonshire Square, at one time the offices of Garton, the estate agents.  

Throughout the 20th century, there have been cafes of various nature in the town centre, and these have enjoyed both periods of popularity and fallow periods, which, to my mind, mirrors that which has happened in other towns and cities. So, for example, in Leicester in the 1970s, the old-established coffee shops suffered the same fate as the locally owned shops in the city centre, who were forced to close or relocate due to rising overheads, the changing tastes of the public, and the introduction in the city of new competitors. Apparently, many of these establishments (for example, Crane's) had been created in the years surrounding WW1, and had been preceded by the coffee houses of the Leicester Coffee and Cocoa House Company, which was founded in 1877.

So it would seem that the popularity of coffee shops in Loughborough ebbs and flows and mirrors national trends, so that today we have a broad selection of coffee shops, catering to all tastes and pockets, and a blend of the global and the national, and the local.

Which of these have you tried?

  • Cafe Nero in Market Place
  • Costa on the corner of Market Place
  • Starbucks in Old Hospital Close
  • Number fifty three at 53 Wards End
  • Greggs in Market Place and on Market Street
  • The Cheesecake Shop in Devonshire Square
  • The Coffee Pot on Granby Street
  • Chino's in Carillon Court shopping centre
  • Baobab Cafe in Market Street
  • Party Pieces in Market Street
  • Dolcino on Cattle Market
  • Amore Gelato in Angel Yard
  • The Three Monkeys in Swan Street
  • Tyler's
  • Casa Cafe on Church Gate
  • Goodliffe's on Church Gate
  • So Coffee on Warner's Lane (though I think this may have recently had a name change)
  • The Cafe on Biggin Street
  • Muffin Break in The Rushes shopping complex
  • Cafe, Takeaway, Bakery next to Sonny's Street Food on Swan Street
  • Delice on Baxter Gate
  • Glebe House on Wood Gate
  • Cocoa on Ashby Road
  • Choclate Alchemy in Church Gate Mews
  • Queen's Park Cafe

Now, what have I missed?! Apologies if your establishment isn't listed here: I've been doing this post from memory, and I can assure you it simply ain't what it used to be! What a good job I'm looking at the town of Loughborough today, and not through the ages: that list of cafes would be enormous! There have been discussions about cafes that used to be in the town, over on the Remember Loughborough facebook page: pop over and have a look if you're interested.  


Cafe Nero
Temperance cafe


Sunday, 15 May 2016

Night of the Zeppelin

Over the years there have been many moments when I have been moved to tears. One such was when I read the Alexander Cordell trilogy (Rape of the Fair Country, Hosts of Rebecca and Song of the Earth) set in the iron foundry of South Wales - Clydach, near Gilwern, to be precise. As a child I'd played on the disused foundry buildings: as an adult I'd romanticised these relics of our industrial heritage, that is, until I read the trilogy. My outlook changed completely, when I came to fully understand the life my ancestors had had, the hardships they had endured, and the emotional and physical scars they carried with them as a result of working in the iron foundry.
The Iron Works at Clydach (2008)
And so it is with the story of the Zeppelin bomb attack on Loughborough, that took place on Monday evening, 31st January 1916. I know the events that took place, I know the theories behind the big question of "why Loughborough?", I know some of the personal information about the Loughborough folk who either died in the attacks, or who were injured, but it wasn't until today that I fully appreciated what this actually meant to the people involved and the people of Loughborough.

This weekend saw an ambitious community event take place in various locations across the town, a collaboration between Charnwood Arts, Loughborough College, Chorus Theatre and Excavate Community Theatre, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and Arts Council England, and represented the culmination of months of planning, preparation and rehearsal.

Events were repeated a number of times across Saturday and Sunday, which gave people plenty of opportunity to attend a variety of sessions. For me the day started off with a performance from the Tommy Atkins Band outside a specially erected dome in Queen's Park.
The Tommy Atkins Band
and was followed by an introduction to the whole event.
Setting the scene
Although there were numerous events to choose from, it proved somewhat difficult to decide which order to do them in, so eventually picked to do the following:
  • Introduction at the Dome
  • The Council Meeting in Glebe House
  • The newspaper reporters' meeting at the Organ Grinder (formerly the Old Pack Horse)
  • The Adkins family story and the Adcocks family story at the Swan-in-the-Rushes
  • The Sarah Oram and Martha Shipman story at Peter's Pizza (formerly the Crown and Cushion pub)
  • The Zeppelin play in the Dome
  • Josiah Gilbert's story at the Organ Grinder
  • The story of friends Ethel Higgs and Elizabeth Askew, and the Page family at Fearon Hall
  • The finale at the Church of All Saints and Holy Trinity

Regrettably, I missed the stories of:
  • Beatrice and Ernest
  • Alfred Coleman
  • Arthur Turnill
  • The Coroner's story
So, what exactly was it all about? Well, on the evening of Monday 31st January 1916 a German Zeppelin, apparently on its way to Liverpool, dropped  four bombs on the town of Loughborough. It seems the crew thought they had reached Sheffield, not least because there were lights on in various parts of the town, making it an easy target. This weekend's event told the stories of the 10 people who were killed in the bombings, and of some of those injured in the blasts, through a variety of performances - acting and dancing by groups of young people, a short, almost comedy sketch, in a replica Zeppelin, re-enactments of council meetings, a soliloquy etc.. 

In some cases, the venues chosen were the actual sites of the events of 1916, for example, the story of Sarah Oram and Martha Shipman was told in Peter's Pizza place, which was previously the Crown and Cushion pub, and it was in the back yard of this that one of the bombs landed. 

Peter Pizza, formerly the Crown and Cushion pub
I can't be 100% certain, but I would imagine the council and coroner's meetings would have taken place in the Magistrate's Court on the corner of Town Hall Passage, so placing the re-enactments in Glebe House was probably fitting. 
The former Magistrate's Court

The courtooom inside
For me, the most moving performance took place upstairs in the Swan-in-the-Rushes, the story of Annie and Joseph Adkins being acted out by four young performers who danced and acted with incredible emotion. Annie and Joseph were described in newspaper reports of the time as being newly-weds, making their deaths all the more poignant. Almost equally as emotionally portrayed was the story of the Adcock family, again, young actors in the same location, acting out the death of young mother Annie Adcock.

Throughout all the performances I was lucky enough to go to, there were a number of themes that ran across them all. 

The first theme was the excitement of experiencing the first of the electric lights, in, what was referred to as the Market Square, and along Leicester Road, and the fact that Loughborough town was not observing the blackouts. This also came across in the story of the Empress Road bombing, where the Herbert Morris factory had lights shining out, as they had recently installed bright ones, and even removed the blinds from the ceiling windows as the workers had complained about how hard it was to work in the dim lighting of previous.
The Herbert Morris factory from the canalside
Another theme was that of snow! I heard several times that it had been snowing in the days leading up to the attack.

An interesting theme was that of ice-cream, and the Italian Bartolomucci family were mentioned in several of the events, not least the finale in the church, when a make-shift Bartolomuch handcart was wheeled down the central aisle and choc ices thrown to the audience, which prompted the Tommy Atkins Band and their friends to burst into song, led by that well-known local performer, and now Britain's Got Talent star, Bill Brookman!
Bill Brookman
Several events mentioned the lack of horses in town, as most had been taken to France to take part in the war. 

And the gas works was mentioned a couple of times too, people expressing their relief that the bombs narrowly missed both the gas and electric works.

There was also a lot of mention of the jobs that women were doing during the war while the men were fighting on the front, like, for example, being postwomen, and being trained in the Technical Institute to make engine parts, and using tools like vernier calipers. There was comment in the finale (a sort of re-enactment of the local Mayor's (Walter William Coltman, owner of Walter W. Coltman and Co Ltd., Central Boiler Works) meeting after the events of 31st January) that since women had done many of the men's jobs whilst they'd been away at war, that women should now be accepted in the workplace, and women allowed to vote!

One phrase that will certainly stay in my mind is that attributed to Annie Adcock, who apparently said:

"Wherever you are, wherever life takes you, the best decisions come from the heart."

I do hope you managed to get to the event, and if you didn't, I hope this little blogpost gives you a flavour of the weekend.

Thank-you for reading. If you are interested to visit the locations on which the bombs fell, you can follow my virtual Zeppelin walk

Here are some pictures of the day.
The camping in Queen's Park

A short silent movie about the event ...

Approaching the Organ Grinder

The news reporters' office upstairs at the Organ Grinder

At the Swan-in-the-Rushes

Awaiting the show upstairs at the Swan-in-the-Rushes

Three German officers in a replica Zeppelin

Inside Fearon Hall

Music in the church

The finale in the church

Sunday, 8 May 2016

From 54 Baxter Gate to 1 Old Hospital Court Road!

So, after a very long wait something is finally opening both on the site of the old hospital and in the former nurses' home. 

A couple of years after the old hospital had closed, and the new one on Epinal Way had opened, it looked like this:

The Baxter Gate hospital
And it wasn't long before it was demolished:
After demolition
The demolition of the hospital rather exposed the side of the former nurses' home (which is how my friends have always referred to it, so that's why I call it this) and it was sad to see such a handsome (Grade II listed) building literally crumbling before our very eyes.
The former nurses' home
However, this has now all changed, and whether or not you think the town can support another cinema, and another half-dozen or so restaurants, the area has been redeveloped, and I have to say I think it all looks rather smart.

The new cinema is on the site of the old hospital, and there is a new "court" between the former nurses' home and the cinema itself, which will be filled with various restaurants. I wonder if the idea of this court harks back to the many courts there were in Loughborough at one time (and, indeed, there still are a few).
Looking out onto Baxter Gate from inside the court
At the end of the "court" was a wall hanging: it took me a few seconds to work out what on earth Laurel and Hardy had to do with Loughborough, but a closer look revealed lots of film characters - from Star Wars, King Kong, Jurassic Park etc. - interspersed with Loughborough landmarks. So, for example, there was a dinosaur peering over the Charnwood Museum.   
The wall hanging
Anyway, if I'm going to go out for a meal I very rarely choose to go to a chain, rather preferring to support local businesses, but, if I'm in a strange town and I am looking for somewhere to eat and I want something safe and predictable, in a pleasant setting then I might choose to go to a Pizza Express. The ones I've been to have all been in sympathetically restored buildings, which makes them a good deal more exciting than uninteresting new builds.

And so I have been watching and waiting for Loughborough Pizza Express to open, mostly because of the joy at seeing the nurses' home being renovated. Last evening I managed to book a table and took my family out for a celebratory meal, and what turned out to be quite an eventful occasion.

The entrance to the restaurant is on the side, and the inside seems to split into two areas, one at the front with large windows, which is obviously the old part of the buildings, and an area towards the back, which is part of the new building. In case you're interested, the washroom facilities are inside the old number 53, which has been opened up and joined with number 54. 
Inside looking out towards Baxter Gate
Our hosts were quite hospitable, but when we arrived it was in torrential rain, and we had hardly sat down at our table, when we became aware that the rain was bucketing down in through the ceiling into the restaurant porch, and then started coming into the restaurant. I don't think the waiters/waitresses really knew what to do! I don't think it was until we came to leave that I realised that the leak was probably in the join between the old and new building. Anyway, our spirits were not dampened and we had an enjoyable meal.
Can you see the rain coming through the ceiling in the porch?
I admit to being quite impressed with the artworks that were placed around the walls, as they all seemed to depict something of the history of the building. So, there was a painting of an auctioneer (was that Mr Garton or Mr Amatt?) - paintings of various auction lots, including a selection of Ladybird books, a group of folk sitting waiting, but I wasn't sure if they were attending the auction, or waiting in the doctor's surgery, and a picture of Towers (which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year).     

Also, I think there was a hint of harking back to the 1930s as part of the new building was tiled in cream tiles with a pale green border, all shiny and new. All in all, it was a very pleasant meal in very pleasant surroundings.   
The auctioneer and the Ladybird lot