Twentieth century Calverton

The rural exodus of the nineteenth century slowed in the early twentieth, partly because of temporary prosperity in agriculture, and Calverton’s population fell slightly to 1,101 in 1911 and 1,040 in 1921 then rose to 1,058 in 1931. There was no decennial census in 1941 because of the Second World War, but by 1951, at the end of the final decade in which Calverton could justly be called a rural village, the population had increased to 1,304 in 431 households.[83]

As noted above, Calverton was without a supply of piped water and the existing supply was often insufficient for the village’s population. In addition, in dry seasons, it had to be carted long distances to water cattle.[84] In June 1900, Basford RDC accepted Sir Charles Seely’s offer to provide a water supply for Calverton. A reservoir, pumping station and caretakers’ house were to be built at his expense, and 10,000 gallons of water per day would be supplied to the village from a borehole, for £87 per year.[85] The reservoir was on the site of present-day Waterworks Cottage, off Longue Drive.

The first reference to a Calverton football team, so far found, was in November 1903, when the draw was made for the second round of the Notts. Shield Competition and Calverton St. Wilfrid’s were drawn to play Carlton St. Paul’s at home.[86] In 1908 Calverton St. Wilfrid’s were disqualified from the Competition for multiple offences, including fielding four ineligible players, and the Secretary of the club, F. Dovey, was suspended from playing or football management.[87]

In the 1906 General Election, 346 (male) villagers were eligible to vote in the, erstwhile, Newark constituency, which was about 31% of the total Calverton population.[88] This is to be compared with the 60 villagers, or only 4%, who were eligible in 1851 (q.v.). The increase was a consequence of the Second and Third Reform Acts of 1867 and 1884. The poorest men were still unable to vote by reason of a property qualification, not abolished until 1918.

The last census before the First World War had found 1,101 inhabitants in 275 households. Certain surnames predominated; there were 69 with the surname Meads, 63 were called Binch, 50 Cooper and 50 Worthington. Villagers were soon being called up to fight in the war, and when the Calverton Co-op failed in their attempt to prevent William Meads from being conscripted, they were said to have lost their last male employee.[89] By the war’s end, Calverton had lost 33 men (over 6% of the male population); the names of the dead are listed on a memorial in the church.[90]

After the war, as a result of the ‘Homes Fit for Heroes’ campaign, a Housing Act was passed to allow the building of council housing. In 1920 Basford RDC made plans for houses in the village for rent, which would cost £1,300 to build. Calverton councillor Charles Collyer (1877–1953) was shocked at the price and pointed out that the average rent in the village was only 2s 6d (12½p) per week.[91] It is not known how many houses were built, but the population increased from 272 households in 1921 to 305 households in 1931, so perhaps less than thirty houses in the decade.

Plans for a railway, to improve transport in the agricultural districts of Nottinghamshire, which would join Lowdham to a point near Blidworth, and which would serve Epperstone, Woodborough, Calverton and Oxton were proposed in 1919 by the Notts. War Agriculture Committee.[92] Possibly because there was already a line from Rolleston to Mansfield, via Southwell, the plans came to naught.

The 1930s brought significant change to the village. Electric light arrived in 1930, with the erection of just a dozen street lights in October of that year.[93] The supplier may have been the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Electric Power Company. By 1939 however the number of overhead electric cables was considered ‘a menace’, and requests were made that new ones should be routed underground.[94] In August 1932, Nottingham Corporation’s water engineer expressed disappointment that so few applications for mains water were being received from villages, because they appeared satisfied with their existing ‘unwholesome’ borehole supplies. In Calverton, where pipe-laying was nearly complete, only 125 had signed up for mains water, out of 308 houses.[95]

In July 1935, at a time when outdoor swimming was becoming nationally popular and lidos were being built by local councils, the Spring Water Lido, a 75 feet by 30 feet outdoor pool, was opened on Moor Lane as a private enterprise by two village business men, Messrs. P. Bagguley and A. Roden. Equipped with a diving board, changing facilities and a café, the lido was fed by a natural spring delivering 300 gallons a minute.[96] A Lido Social Club was formed in 1947 which, by 1950, had 1,100 members.[97]

In June 1937 a new cricket pavilion was opened by James Seely (1901–1956) in the same week (as he noted), that he had attended the ceremony of ground-breaking in connection with the new colliery (q.v.). The cricket ground itself had been provided by his grandfather Sir Charles Seely in 1910.[98]

Although it was in 1937 that the first shaft of the mine was sunk, it had been as early as 1910 that borings had taken place at Oxton, Thurgarton and elsewhere, to more accurately determine the extent of the concealed Nottinghamshire coalfield. As a result of the borings, it was expected that coal could be worked profitably in the area, as was already being done at Gedling.[99] In 1921, George Spencer of the Notts Miners Association had asserted that coal was ‘known to exist’ at Calverton.[100] Work started on the colliery in June 1937 with the Seely family’s Babbington Colliery Co. beginning the sinking of the shaft that would enable ventilation and ‘man-riding’ to the workings at Bestwood colliery. In 1938, the Babbington Colliery Co. was taken over by the Bestwood Coal and Iron Company which was soon renamed B. A. Collieries Ltd.[101] At about the same time Charles Collyer (who was by now chairman of both Basford Rural Council and the Calverton Parish Council, as well as a Calverton poultry farmer) was in discussions with the Ministry of Health to borrow money to provide sewage disposal works for the village. At that time there were no disposal facilities at all, and the possibility that the mine owners, B.A. Collieries Ltd., might wish to build a colliery village of 500 houses and boost the population from an estimated 1,200, made the talks more urgent.[102] The 527m mine-shaft was completed early in 1939 and by September of that year, various buildings and twenty-two houses of a proposed colliery village had been built, to a design by Geoffrey Jellicoe. The Second World Warthen brought further work to an abrupt halt.[103]

In 1940 the Trent Fishery Board, a precursor of the Trent River Authority, opened the Calverton Fish Farm with the aim of breeding thousands of fish to stock rivers and still waters around the country. The farm consisted of sheds containing hatching trays and sixty-three ponds in nine units of seven ponds each. The water supply to the ponds was from a spring, by means of a borehole five hundred feet deep.[104] In December 1941, some 12,000 fish, including carp and bream, were brought from the lake at Highfields Park. The farm was already hatching out salmon and trout, and hoped to be fully stocked by 1942.[105]

On 13 October 1940, a Fairey Battle aircraft of No. 300 Polish Bomber Squadron, then operating from RAF Winthorpe, was returning from a raid on Boulogne. Control of the aircraft was lost in fog, and it crashed in woods close to Whinbush Lane (53°03′32.88″N 1°05′55.44″W). A memorial was subsequently erected to the three Polish airmen who were killed.[106]

In the Second World War the village lost eight men, and their names appear on a brass memorial, in St Wilfrid’s Church (q.v.).[107]

Work resumed on the mine after the war, and at the sinking of the new shaft in January 1946, B.A. Collieries Ltd. chairman Claude Lancaster M.P said that it was estimated that beneath the surface there might be 125 million tons of coal, which if one thousand men were to produce a million tons every year, would provide employment for 125 years.[108]This was to be the last privately sunk shaft, before the coal industry was nationalised on 1 January 1947 and became the property of the National Coal Board (NCB). Since government plans to take the industry into public ownership were a Labour Party manifesto commitment of the post-war election, it seems possible that the sinking of the coal-winding shaft by B.A. Collieries Ltd, before nationalisation, was to ensure the payment of compensation.

In 1949 Councillor Collyer foresaw the development of Calverton from a village of 1,250 people to a ‘satellite town’ of 8,000 by 1960, and he said that the NCB were asking that two thousand miners be housed in the village.[109] The final depth of the new shaft was reached in June 1952 and, on 24 September of that year, Calverton Colliery was officially opened by the Minister for Coordination of Transport, Fuel and Power Lord Leathers. After ventilation and other equipment had been installed, coal winding began in March 1953.[110]

Following the colliery opening, two housing developments were created; the Colliery Estate bounded by Mansfield Lane, Crookdole Lane and Park Road East, and the Council Estate bounded by Park Road, Lee Road and Flatts Lane. In the 1950s the population of Calverton rose sharply from 1,304 in 431 households in 1951, to 5,658 in 1,545 households in 1961.[111] This suggests that some 1,100 houses were built in the period. The Yorkshire Post reported, in February 1954, that collieries in the Mexborough area were being affected by men leaving for Calverton, because they had been promised new houses.[112]

The increase in population necessitated the rapid provision of more school places, and in 1955 Manor Park mixed primary school was opened, followed by William Lee mixed junior school in 1956. In 1957 Colonel Frank Seely mixed secondary school was the next to open. When, in 1960, Sir John Sherbrooke junior school opened its doors, Manor Park became a school for infants only.[113]

In the 1970s and early 1980s the colliery employed some 1,600 workers, but by 1988 this figure had fallen to 1,000, of whom 300 lived in the village. By September 1993, the number had been further reduced to 648, of whom 148 lived in Calverton.[114]

Traditional cottage-based frame-working had died out by the mid- twentieth century, but the link between the village and the hosiery industry was retained, through the presence of a Courtaulds factory on Main Street. The destruction of this factory by fire in 1991, finally ended Calverton’s association with the textile industry.[115]

In 1992 British Coal (the successor to the NCB), had announced that the colliery would close, and in November 1993 it raised its offer of redundancy payments to £7,000 per man, on condition that the mine shut down immediately. This was to dissuade workers from opting for a review procedure which would delay matters. This offer was accepted, and the mine shut on 19 November.[116] In December 1994 RJB Mining (now UK Coal) bought the core mining activities of the English coalfields from British Coal for £814 million and reopened four collieries, one of which was Calverton.[117] Less than five years later however, on 9 April 1999, RJB Mining announced the closure of the colliery, citing ‘deteriorating geological conditions…(which)… have made it unviable’, and production of coal in the village finally ended, a week later, on 16 April.[118]

In the 1960s, further housing had been built in the village, within the boundaries of Crookdole Lane, Bonner Lane, and Park Road East and by 1971 the village numbered 6,283. In the late 1970s and 1980s, there was more housing at the bottom of Bonner Hill and George’s Lane and by 2001 there were 6,903 inhabitants in 2,771 households.[119] Since the closure of the colliery, Calverton has assumed the character of a large commuter village.

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