Grandfather's Sneinton by Stephen Best

A look at the area through the pages of local publication of 1907

An interesting link with the Sneinton of seventy-six years ago survives in Nottingham University Library. This is "The Sneinton Almanack and Chronicle for 1907", published by E. and J.E. Gibson of 117a Sneinton Road at a price of one penny. Described on its green paper cover as "interesting: instructive: amusing",this little booklet contained on page two a message from its proprietors. Here, next to a fine drawing of the Bath Clock by William Kiddier they stated their willingness to consider any photographs sent to them for inclusion in future issues, and pointed out that they would pay for any that they chose to publish. After expressing a hope that local people would not be content with merely seeing the "Almanack", but would also urge their friends to buy copies, the publishers wished their readers "a very bright and prosperous New Year."

117a Sneinton Road was the home of Edwin Gibson, parish clerk of St. Stephen's church, Sneinton. It was one of the houses lying on the short stretch of road between Notintone Place and Windmill Lane. What facts for the year 1907 did the Gibsons choose to lay before their Sneinton readers? As the booklet's name indicated, there was an almanack section, and this naturally contained much of general rather than local interest. The middle 36 pages constituted this almanack, beginning with a portrait of Queen Alexandra and a couple of pages of aphorisms and jokes. The monthly almanack pages included gardening hints, drawings of celebrities past and present and paragraphs on such topics as tossing the caber, the eruption of Vesuvius, and the King and Queen of Spain. The centre spread bore portrait photographs of the Spanish royal couple at the time of their wedding. One feature of this section was the publishers' habit of encumbering the heads of its pages with mottoes, a practice which had particularly unhappy results here, as above the Queen were the words "Tell it well or say nothing", and over the King the inappropriate sentiment "Prevention is better than cure". Three pages of postal regulations, details of the Royal Family and the government, and stamp and excise duties brought the general almanack section to an end.

Turning to the local items, the "Sneinton Almanack" began by listing places of worship in Sneinton. There were seven Church of England entries. Four of these churches survive to this day; St. Stephen's, St. Christopher's, St. Mathias' and St. Alban's, the last-named of course no longer used by the Anglicans.

SNEINTON ROAD about 1907 FROM THE CORNER OF WINDMILL LANE.SNEINTON ROAD about 1907 FROM THE CORNER OF WINDMILL LANE.
Edwin and J.E. Gibson published the "Sneinton Almanack” from the house in the centre of the picture. The trees beyond mark the end of Notintone Place. (Courtesy: Nottinghamshire County Library)

The three Church of England buildings no longer with us were St. Philip's, Pennyfoot Street, St.Luke's, Carlton Road, and St. Clement's, Thorneywood. This was a modest building at the corner of Carlton Road and Porchester Road which for many years housed Wragg's organ building works. Its origins as St. Clement's explained the decidedly ecclesiastical windows which puzzled so many people. Of the five Nonconformist churches listed for 1907 probably the best known was the Albion Chapel on Sneinton Road, then part of the Congregational church. Of the others, the Independent Methodist Church on Carlton Road (between Randolph Street and Leighton Street.) has for some time been the New Testament Church of God, while the Sneinton Boulevard United Free Methodist Church now houses the Sneinton Hermitage Community Centre. Gone altogether are the Thorneywood Congregational Mission Room, which stood just above Burgass Road on Thorneywood Lane (now Porchester Road), and North Street Wesleyan Mission Chapel, which was only a few yards from St. Alban's Church, but two streets away from it, with South Street in between.

The "Sneinton Almanack" reproduced a photograph of the Vicar of Sneinton. In 1907 he was The Rev. The Hon. Robert Macgill Dalrymple, youngest son of the 10th Earl of Stair, and a cousin of Earl Manvers, the Patron of the Living. The Hon. Mr. Dalrymple, a handsome, vigorous-looking man of 45, had been vicar since 1902 and was to remain here until 1917. Also pictured in the same section of the "Almanack" was William Straw who had died in 1905 having been connected with the Albion Chapel since its opening in 1856. Mr. Straw had lived at 3 Notintone Place, and was an accountant and house and insurance agent. Not even his official capacity as a tax collector had prevented his being a popular and respected resident of Sneinton. A photograph of the Albion Chapel accompanied Mr. Straw's portrait, with a note that the minister of the day, the Rev. Speight Auty, was maintaining the best traditions of the Chapel and was very popular among his congregation.

Mr. Auty, like many leading Sneinton figures, lived at Victoria Villas, Sneinton Dale: his house is now 37, Sneinton Dale. The Rev. Speight Auty is buried in the General Cemetery, near one of the main walks by the Canning Circus entrance, and his unusual name has often caught the eye of the passer -by. The Albion Chapel looked in 1907 much as it does today from the outside, except that its wall and railings were complete, and its entrance adorned with a pair of splendid gas lamps.

There followed a page of extracts from the Sneinton parish registers from 1654 to 1657. Regulars at the Lord Nelson would have noticed, under 1657, the names of Christopher and Luke Hornbuckle; Mrs Emmeline Hornbuckle had been licensee at the pub for some years in the 1880s and 1890s. Next came a photograph of Sneinton Boulevard Chapel, then only two years old, and built at a cost of £5,500. The proprietors apologised for including this picture in the "Almanack", pointing out that what they had really wanted to publish was a portrait of Mr. Wallett, the minister, but that this had "not come to hand."

Some useful information about the postal services of Sneinton was given next. In 1907 five post offices were open in the area; at Meadow Lane, Sneinton Elements, Sneinton Road, Thorneywood Lane and Thurgarton Street. From the Sneinton Road office there were no fewer than eleven collections daily, with two on Sundays. Pillar boxes were less numerous, there being only four, at Colwick Road, Dakeyne Street, Newark Street and Notintone Street. The "Almanack" next dealt with transport. Public transport to Sneinton at the beginning of 1907 was, surprisingly, still struggling on without trams. The electric tram route to Colwick Road was to open later in 1907, and that to Carlton Road in 1910. The services were consequently being operated with buses. "Horse busses" run privately by John Commons of Muskham Street ran between Sneinton Dale and Market Place every Half-hour from 8.15am until 10.15pm. On Saturday afternoons the frequency was increased to every 20 minutes, but on Sundays the services did not start until tea time. Nottingham Corporation had sold off all its remaining horse bus services to Mr. Commons In 1902. Between the Exchange and the Crown Hotel on Carlton Road ran Nottingham's first ever service of "motor busses". This had begun in March 1906 with three double deck vehicles, and it was not long before one of them was involved in a fatality. On May 28th 1906 a bricklayer's labourer was run over and killed by a bus in Southwell Road. By a strange quirk of fate, the bus driver involved in this macabre bit of Sneinton history-making was named George Green. In 1907 the service ran every quarter hour from 7.30a.m. until 11p.m.; the fare was a penny, as it was on the horse buses This early motor bus experiment was to prove a short-lived one owing to the mechanical vagaries of the vehicles. They suffered from blocked petrol supply pipes and from split pins falling out of the steering gear. The vibration suffered by the buses running over Nottingham's cobblestones caused sundry nuts and bolts to work loose, and on one occasion a disabled bus had to wait for five hours until another one was available to tow it back to Trent Bridge Depot. It was not unknown for buses to go out on the road 2 or 3 hours late owing to mechanical failure, and it cannot have been much of a surprise when, in June 1908, the motor buses were taken off the road. The Carlton Road route went back to horse bus operation for two years, William Bamford of St. Ann's Well Road taking over the service until the arrival of the trams in 1910.

Readers of the "Sneinton Almanack" were next offered a drawing of Henry Kirke White's birthplace in the Shambles, with a brief account of the short life of this Nottingham poet. The following few pages were rich in interest. First came Sneinton's Roll of Honour, a list of six distinguished former residents. As might have been expected Robert Millhouse and William Booth were among them, the latter unusually, if correctly, described as Rev. William Booth. Also listed were two men who had attained eminence in the arts. Edwin Ellis, the painter, was born at 78, Manvers Street, and became noted for his landscape and marine paintings. An exhibition of 84 of his pictures was held at the Castle Museum in 1893, two years before his death. George Dance, librettist and theatrical manager was born in 1865 and was a former pupil of Sneinton Church School. The "Almanack" recorded that his "A Chinese Honeymoon" had been one of the greatest successes in the history of the stage, earning him over £60,000. It had played for over 1,000 performances at the Strand Theatre between 1901 and 1904. George Dance was to live on until 1932, having been knighted in 1923 in recognition of his generosity in giving £30,000 to a fund to save The Old Vic Theatre. For many years his touring companies travelled the country playing musical comedy hits from the Adelphi, Gaiety, and Daly's theatres. The two remaining figures In Sneinton's Roll of Honour are likely to strike a less familiar chord with readers in 1983. Arthur Blasdale Clarke was born at Sneinton in 1865 and had recently been appointed Town Clerk of Ramsgate. Thomas Coxon, educated at Sneinton National School, had in 1903 been Mayor of Huntingdon. The "Sneinton Almanack" included photographs of General Booth and Messrs Clarke and Coxon, and deserves the gratitude of posterity for portraying two worthy citizens otherwise unknown to local history. On the following page was an account of the opening of Pennyfoot Street Recreation Ground. The Public Parks Committee of Nottingham Corporation had been authorised to spend £500 on improving a piece of waste ground at the corner of Plough Lane and Pennyfoot St., just to the west of St. Philip's church. Councillor W.H. Carey, chairman of the committee, performed the ceremony on May 30th 1906, making a speech in which he urged the local children (who had been marched down from neighbouring schools) to do all in their power to keep the Ground in good order. The article was accompanied by a photograph showing Mr. Carey making his little speech while standing on a table, surrounded by policemen and municipal officials, with the locals lined up in the background in front of a row of houses on Pennyfoot Street, At the conclusion of the ceremony each child was presented with a bun and an orange.

PENNYFOOT STREET around 1907 LOOKING TOWARDS MANVERS STREET.
PENNYFOOT STREET around 1907 LOOKING TOWARDS MANVERS STREET. Beyond the Recreation Ground are St.Philip's church and schools. (Courtesy:Nottinghamshire County Library)

Football fixtures for 1907 followed, with Notts County enjoying a spell in the 1st Division which was to last until 1912-13. Their opponents for the coming season included Bury, Woolwich Arsenal, Preston North End and Bristol City. Nottingham Forest were in Division 2, having been relegated after the 1905/6 season. Their stay there was a brief one, as they emerged as 2nd Division Champions in 1907. During that year they played against such teams as Burslem Port Vale, Leeds City, Glossop, Clapton Orient, Gainsborough Trinity, Burton United and Leicester Fosse. The third local club whose fixtures appeared in the "Almanack" was, very properly, Sneinton, playing in red and white, and based at the Colwick Road Ground. Their 1907 opponents included St. Andrews, Nottingham Insurance, Colwick G.N.R. and Netherfield Rangers.

The "Sneinton Almanack" next devoted a page to education in Sneinton, with a short history of Sneinton Church Schools. Four photographs of stalwarts associated with the school were reproduced.

Miss Betsy Downward had been headmistress of the mixed infant department for over 30 years, while George Merchant had been headmaster for most of the time between 1850 and 1868. Miss Downward had died in 1897, but Mr Merchant was living in retire ment at Gorsey Road, Mapperley. He had left Sneinton in 1868 as the work imposed too great a strain upon him, and had sought quieter pastures at Wilford Endowed School. While at Wilford he wrote a best-selling arithmetic text book. His early stresses at Sneinton appear to have caused him no lasting harm, as he lived until the 1920's. Miss Downward and Mr Merchant stare glassily out at, or not quite at, the camera, apparently ill at ease: she in a black dress with a brooch at the neck, and with her hair severely parted in the middle; he glaring defiantly from above his starched collar. Mr. Merchant's successors John Steedman and Charles Frederick Hole were also pictured, Mr. Hole being in charge of the school in 1907. At the head of the page was a photograph of the girls of the school at an "entertainment" in May 1906. They pose in white dresses, with ribbons and flowers, very demure and pretty.

Two pages titled "History of Sneinton" followed, with a pen and ink drawing of Sneinton Church and Dale Street by William Kiddier, the brushmaker, author and artist, who had business premises not far away on Sneinton Street. Readers of the "Almanack" might have been disappointed that the history was bought no further up to date than the year 1311, and it must be said that many of the theories put forward in it concerning the derivation of the name "Sneinton" were more picturesque than accurate. On the inside of the back cover was a print of Sneinton church in 1790. "This view" stated the caption, "may be obtained as a Picture Postcard at 117a Sneinton Road. Price 1d."

Although it is likely that Edwin Gibson would have thought that the greatest value of the "Sneinton Almanack" lay in the parts already described, there remains in it for today's reader a further source of delight and fascination. The advertisments provide a potted social and economic sketch of Edwardian Sneinton.

An old friend had pride of place on the front cover. Pullman & Son Ltd., wholesale and retail drapers, of Sneinton Street and Derby Road, advertised their large stock, great variety, and cash prices. Linoleums, oilcloths, mantles, umbrellas, flannelettes, calicoes and furs were all among the items on sale at their emporium. Prosser & Co., "clothiers, tailors and juvenile outfitters," came next. At their shop at No. 23 Hockley they offered made-to-measure suits at 42/-, ready-made suits for men from 14/6d, and boy's suits ranging in price from 1/6½d to 2/-. Pay a visit round our departments, you will not be asked to buy" ran the advert, ending with this couplet. "When you purchase from Prossers your townsmen you aid, By wearing their clothes that are Nottingham made".

Next to advertise was W. Trueman of Goose Gate, "the noted house for bedsteads and bedding." Trueman's special lines for 1907 were a solid satin walnut wardrobe bedroom suite at £5-19-6d, and leather dining room suites at £3-19-6d. Next came the exhortation to "Eat Bates bread: it bates all.' The perpetrator of this shameless pun was Alfred Bates of 102, Sneinton Road, winner of "highest honours at the Bakers' Exhibition London." His shop later became Day's, and remained well-known in Sneinton for many years. Two other familiar names followed, E.A. Wilcock's meat stores of 8, Carlton Road (at the bottom of Sneinton Road) and Claude Manfull, "qualified optician (by examination, London)" of Thurgarton Street. "If you will favour me with a call" ran Mr. Manfull's advertisement, "I will give you skilled attention and test your eyes Free of Charge ... My prices for spectacles and Eyeglasses are strictly moderate, and I give great attention to the fitting of the frame, so that the greatest benefit combined with comfort and elegance may be derived." Mr. Manfull's hours of business are worthy of note: 10am. to 1pm., 2pm to 4-30pm and 6pm. to 8-30pm. He also offered for sale drugs, chemicals, perfumes and toilet requisites.

At 486 Meadow Lane, on the corner of Lindum Grove, stood "The Noted Ale and Grocery Stores" (proprietor Frederick S. Tagg), who confidently asserted that "Shipstone's ales and stouts are the best." Another advertiser of 1907, and happily still with us, was Price & Beal, of Southwell Road and Commercial Square. This firm shared a page in the "Sneinton Almanack" with J. Jordan of 15, Sneinton Road. "For cabs, landaus, hansoms &c go to J. Jordan's: wedding carriages a speciality. Clearly a go-ahead business man Mr. Jordan was on the telephone both at his home and his stables. Also included was a modest advert for the Sneinton Parish Magazine. "One penny monthly. An interesting, instructive, illustrated record of church life and work." This was obtainable from Edwin Gibson or from Miss Mary Jones at her shop at 114, Sneinton Road. Edwin Gibson's advertising style is apparent in his description of the Parish Magazine, which strongly resembles his sales patter on the cover of the "Almanack".

The impressive-sounding Sneinton Manor Laundry had a full-page advertisement. With its premises on Sneinton Hermitage (immediately to the east of Lees Hill Footway) and branch offices in Newark Street and other parts of Nottingham it proclaimed itself "second to none shirt and collar dresser."

Its owner, William Saxton, lived at Oak Leigh, Sneinton Hermitage. Nearby was another local advertiser, Samuel Eyre & Co., coal, corn, hay and straw merchant. Brunswick Wharf, Hermit Street. Hermit Street was a busy place in 1907 with, among others, T. Fish & Sons, timber merchants and saw mill proprietors,

Ernest William Giersberg, sausage skin dealer, and the Sneinton Free Reading Room and Library. It is a disappointment to this writer that the "Almanack" did not find the space to give the Library even a passing mention.

The next page had no Sneinton advertisers, but local residents may have been glad enough of the services of H. Wilkinson, maker of surgical appliances, Mansfield Road, who offered readers "gentlemen's corsets made to order." There followed a full-page advertisement for XMA, "the grand specifics of the age, the greatest discovery for eczema, scurvy, scrofula, and all kinds of skin diseases." The makers claimed it to be "the most valuable ointment in the world." At 7½d and l/l½d it must indeed have been a snip if it fulfilled a third of its promises. This medical breakthrough was sold by the XMA company of 54, Carlton Road, just two doors away from "The Swan With Three Necks" pub. Just what kind of premises the XMA Company had, and how they prepared this boon to mankind, are questions not answered by the street directory, which reveals that the occupier of 54, Carlton Road at that time was Thomas Walker, painter and decorator.

The finest advertisement in the "Almanack" promoted a Nottingham, though not a Sneinton, product. This was Mason's Coffee Essence, made by Newball & Mason at Beech Avenue, Sherwood Rise. It took the form of a full-colour drawing by John Hassall. A year or so later Hassall was to design one of the greatest advertisements of all time, the skipping fisherman who told the world that "Skegness is so bracing." (For that poster he was, by the way, paid £12 by the Great Northern Railway). His drawing for Mason showed an old matron in a donkey cart refreshing herself with a cup of coffee on a snowy day, with a sturdy countrywoman bearing a pot of the same beverage, watched by the youthful driver and a girl. Last of all the advertisers in the "Sneinton Almanack", Leiver's Bros, of 25, Hockley paraded their groceries on the back cover. One of their lines was "Mee-li-kee" tea. The reaction of Chinese residents to this brand name is not recorded, but the Sneinton humour of 1907 was no doubt tickled.

In their message on page two of the "Almanac" Edwin and J.E. Gibson set out their hope that "it will supply an interesting record of the past and give permanence to that which would otherwise be obliterated by time's ruthless march." It is pleasant to acknowledge that they succeeded in this aim, giving us a brief glimpse of Sneinton before the Great War. My thanks are due to the Librarian of Nottingham University, and, in particular, to Michael Brook for help and information.

STEPHEN BEST.