My early years

 

I was born on Albert Street, Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, England on a very stormy night in 1953. My birthplace has long since gone, but it was immortalized in the novel ‘Sons and Lovers’ by David Herbert Lawrence, who was born about a quarter of a mile from my birthplace. Lawrence wrote:

To accommodate the regiments of miners, Carston, Waite and Co. built the Squares, great quadrangles of dwellings on the hillside of Bestwood.

Lawrence changed the name of the town to ‘Bestwood’. Albert Street formed one side of one of these ‘Squares’, the others being Scargill Street, Victoria Street and the locally notorious Princes Street. The ‘Squares’, known to locals as ‘The Buildings’, are also gone, although some of the houses that surrounded these ‘Squares’ still stand on Princes Street and Wellington Street, modernised for the 21st century.

My childhood years were spent on Newthorpe Common, Plumtpre Way and Pickering Avenue, and it wasn’t until I was 26 that I returned to the north side of Eastwood with my new wife Sandra.

We took up residence on Garden Road, where my sons Jamie and Luke were born, Jamie in 1979 and Luke in 1986. The Lawrence connection followed us here as his second house in Eastwood was a few hundred yards down Garden Road. In ‘Sons and Lovers’ he wrote:

The Bottoms consisted of six blocks of miners’ dwellings, two rows of three, like the dots on a blank-six domino, and twelve houses in a block. This double row of dwellings sat at the foot of the rather sharp slope from Bestwood, and looked out, from the attic windows at least, on the slow climb of the valley towards Selby.

The houses themselves were substantial and very decent. One could walk all round, seeing little front gardens with auriculas and saxifrage in the shadow of the bottom block, sweet-williams and pinks in the sunny top block; seeing neat front windows, little porches, little privet hedges, and dormer windows for the attics. But that was outside; that was the view on to the uninhabited parlours of all the colliers’ wives. The dwelling-room, the kitchen, was at the back of the house, facing inward between the blocks, looking at a scrubby back garden, and then at the ash-pits. And between the rows, between the long lines of ash-pits, went the alley, where the children played and the women gossiped and the men smoked. So, the actual conditions of living in the Bottoms, that was so well built and that looked so nice, were quite unsavoury because people must live in the kitchen, and the kitchens opened on to that nasty alley of ash-pits.

‘The Bottoms’ are known locally as ‘The Breach’ and consist of rows of Victorian miners cottages on Garden Road and Greenhills Road, which runs parallel. Here we lived for almost 30 years until October 2008, but more of that later.

Sons and Lovers is available as a free PDF download from Planet PDF at this link.

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