History of Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, England

Number 9 Spital Row
Our Artha's Memories

Memories of Arthur Foster Bullimore
as told to Ernest William Foster Bullimore

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The family home of the Bullimore family and before them the Ives [who were living in Spital Row in the 1841 census]. Approximately the middle cottage of a row of ten, built for we believe brewery workers at the local brewery [next door]. Built sometime in the late 18th century. At the time we lived there only two brewery workers lived in them, and the rest were rented out. The rent for our cottage was three shillings and six pence per week. [In decimal currency this would be seventeen and a half new pence].

The cottages were built of red brick, interspaced with the odd cream coloured bricks. The roofs were of red tile, the windows were rather small and there was only one door into the cottage. At the front of the house was a very small garden, split down the middle with a path of broken bricks etc. The garden on the right hand side had flowers in it, and the left hand side was mainly a play area, where we made mud pies etc. At the top end of the garden was a brick wall, over which we watched the passing traffic, taking car numbers etc, which were held up when the level crossing gates were closed. The crossing was a little further down along the road. We even had traffic jams in those days. This was the reason for us leaving Spital Row, the cottages were pulled down to make way for the bridge over the railway line. The cottage must have been small, although it always seemed to be a large place to me as a child.

It had one main living room downstairs with a "walk in" pantry and a cupboard under the stairs, aptly named "The Bogie Hole", being dark in there with no windows or lighting. Below the living room was a cellar, reached by a trap door in the corner of the living room. There was also two small bedrooms, the front one had a small fireplace, the fire being lit only when there was an illness or a birth. Lighting had been oil lamps and candles until the gas light was installed to the centre of the living room, and a small gas ring on a stool on the left hand side of the fireplace. Shortly after, the house was wired for electricity, having one light in the living room, each bedroom, the cellar and the stairs. This had a two way switch which was a great amusement to us kids. Only small watt bulbs were used as electricity was thought to be expensive. The cellar light hardly ever had a bulb in, as we had the habit of leaving it on; this we could not afford.

The living room was the "hub" of the household, everything was done here, it was used as follows:-

  1. Sitting Room Not too comfortable, only two chairs other than dining chairs, one was a wooden arm chair with a padded seat and back which Dad usually sat in, and a rocking chair which was Mum's.
  2. Kitchen All the food was prepared and then cooked over the cooking range, which consisted of a fire with an oven one side and a water boiler for heating water on the other. This was the only means of hot water in the house.
  3. Dining Room A large wooden table which was scrubbed, but always covered with an oil cloth and a table cloth at meal times, was in the centre of the room, complete with four dining chairs and a bench which was used at meal times.
  4. Bathroom A tin bath was stored in the cellar and put in front of the fire on bath night, usually Saturday ready for putting on clean clothes to start the week on Sundays, the water for the bath was heated in the boiler and in kettles.
  5. Nursery and Playroom With a family our size it was very hectic with not a lot of room to spare, but still very enjoyable, playing games Draughts, Dominoes, card games, drawing and painting etc.
  6. Utility Room for Washing The week's washing was done here. All the utensils were kept in the living room, wash tubs and baths, mangle [a big cast iron one], ponches and dolly pegs.

    Wash day was always on Monday. I hated wash day, clothes hanging everywhere on wet days, and for dinner it was always cold meat from the Sunday joint and fried potatoes with brown sauce, followed by rice pudding - Mum spent most of the day Tuesday ironing, heating the flat irons in front of the fire.

  7. Sewing Room We had a sewing machine and mum made quite a lot of our clothes on it. She also seemed to darn a lot of pairs of socks.

The floor of the living room was covered in red tiles, which mum always seemed to be scrubbing. The rugs scattered around were pegged rugs which mum made with the occasional help from us. There were lace curtains at the window and always some kind of plant on the window sill, usually an Aspidistra.

High on the wall in the corner of the room was the electric meter, which was a bit of a problem when the light went out, finding the thing to put the shilling in. The gas meter was on the floor level on the other side of the room which was better and only required pennies.

On the trap door to the cellar on the left hand side of the fireplace, Ted stored the barrow he used for his paper round. There were rows of hooks on the back of the entrance door, here we hung our out door clothes, our shoes and boots were kept in neat rows under the table. In the corner on the right hand side of the fireplace, the pram was kept. This was a large full bodied thing, which seemed to be the dumping ground for anything, such as toys, clothes etc, when not in use for the baby. In front of this was a well worn sofa, it was patched, padded and covered with blankets, and was useful when any of the family was not well.

In this corner also high on the wall was a shelf, here was stored a tin box which contained important papers, insurance policies, rent book etc.

There were also two tall glass wine decanters [decoration only] and other odds and ends, which were put there out of reach of the children. In the opposite corner to this, high on the wall was a highly polished corner cupboard [antique no doubt] this was the home for glasses, wine glasses and best china, crockery etc. On the top shelf was stored medicines, lotions, ointments etc and not forgetting "Zambuck" and "Snowfire" block used on chilblains.

On top of the cupboard games such as draughts, dominoes along with a peg board for scoring were kept, and there was also a home made "Zither" up there. I remember one weekend this cupboard disappeared, sold no doubt when the house keeping cash was low. Below this cupboard stood a small round table, on it a gramophone with a large horn, along with a selection of records [some of them one sided]. Ivy didn't like the record "Connie in the cornfield" she used to think that the cow that mooed on it would come out of the horn. The gramophone was given to us by Uncle Jack [John George Ives] when he cleared out his attic.

Next to this piece of furniture was a dresser, which had a cupboard that housed the crockery for everyday use and such things as salt and pepper, mustard, vinegar, flour and dried fruit for cakes etc. The dresser also had three drawers in which linen was kept. Hanging on the wall behind these pieces of furniture were two large gilt framed pictures, one of Fountaindale Abbey in Yorkshire, and the other I think was the "Haywaine", prints of course.

The fireplace was well black leaded and the fender and fire irons polished. Above the fireplace was a mantelpiece this was surrounded with a tasselled cloth, goodness knows how it didn't catch fire. On this was the usual ornaments, small framed photographs, the tea caddy, a tobacco box [made of cast iron] and Dad's pipe rack, and of course letters and bills etc. propped up between these. On one side of the fireplace a toasting fork hung and on the other side a pin cushion. On the wall above the mantle-piece was a large mirror in a heavy square frame. On each side of this were family photographs in heavy frames; one was of Dad in his flat cap and smoking a pipe, the other of Mum and Grandma Ives holding Mum's first baby on her knee; I think Mum's first husband was in the background.

Under the mantle-piece was a line fitted, on this nappies, socks, tea-towels etc were dried and aired. This was certainly a fire hazard. Around the fire-place was a semicircular fire guard, which acted to prevent the children from falling into the fire, and this was also used to dry and air clothes. Above the fire-place almost at ceiling level were two clothes lines across the length of the living room. These always seemed to be laden with clothes, bed linen and such. It was over here Dad put his daily papers out of reach of us children, The Daily Herald weekdays and the News of the World on Sundays. I could never understand why we couldn't read them.

The pantry which you could just walk into was lined with shelves, the upper ones held things out of reach of the children, the lower ones held crockery, plates, meat dishes, basins, jugs, pans, and baking tins etc. Also plates with food on, meat were covered with a wire mesh cover, and milk jugs and basins were covered with muslin clothes to keep the flies out. Under the shelves at floor level were bags with greens, onions and vegetables in. There was also a bread pippin. At the end near to a small mesh covered window, on a platform was a white enamel bucket with a lid on which contained drinking water, from here kettles etc were filled. There was no running water in the house; it all had to be fetched from a tap across the yard, there was only two taps for the row of cottages [one at each end]. Behind the pantry door the shopping bags were hung on hooks.

The cupboard under the stairs, referred to as the "Bogie Hole", was where we washed. On a narrow table was a small enamel bowl and a receptacle for soap [carbolic] and flannels. On the wall behind the table was a patterned straw mat, a sort of splash back. There was a shelf above where Dad kept his shaving mug, soap and brush, also his cut throat razor, well out of reach of the children. Under the table was a bucket for waste water, and the odd wee from the boys on dark nights. To the right of the table under the lowering part of the stairs was a wooden box containing black-lead, polishes, Brasso, brushes and polishing cloths. There was also a bucket complete with scrubbing brush and floorcloth. Next to this was a bucket of coal and sticks for the fire. This cupboard was also the home for sweeping brushes and dust-pans etc. Towels also hung from hooks at the back of the door.

The door next to this was the staircase, another dark area, no windows, and no carpet or covering on the stairs, just well scrubbed. At the bottom of the stairs high on the wall was another shelf, again out of reach of the children and below this another row of hooks for more outdoor clothing.

At the top of the stairs were two doors with latch fastenings leading to the bedrooms. The front bedroom was the wider of the two, but the width of the staircase shorter, the rear room being a long and narrow room. Mum and Dad slept in the front bedroom along with the youngest child and baby at the time. It contained more furniture, a double bed with iron bedstead, having brass fitting and knobs. This bed had a huge feather mattress, which had to be shaken up each day. The usual white sheets and pillow cases which were laced trimmed, the cream coloured blankets were covered with a white honeycomb counterpane which was tasselled.

The bed was pushed into the corner leaving just enough room for the door to be opened. A valance was fitted around this bed, hiding articles stored under the bed, including the china chamber pot. At the other end of the room was a single bed with a black iron bedstead; this bed was covered with a patchwork quilt. l can remember at times two small children sleeping in this bed, one at the head and one at the foot. When any of the family were ill they used this bed, so that mum could keep an eye on them. This was the only bedroom to have a fireplace, and as I have already mentioned was lit during illness and when mum had yet another baby.

The furniture in the room was a wash stand containing the china bowl, and soap dish along with a large water jug. These were white with a flower pattern and long legged birds on it. These matched up with the candle stick and trinket set on the dressing table and the chamber pots. On the dressing table, which was a light coloured wood matching up with the wash stand, was also a globe covering a cake decoration from the top of a wedding cake, from which of mum's weddings l can only guess, the 1st. There was also a small wooden writing box in which mum kept trinkets, brooches, beads, and the likes. The top drawer of the dressing table contained "picture post cards", which mum had sent to her. They used to collect them in those days. l know we used to like looking at them. Some of them had words of the song of the day on them, which mum used to sing to us. The title of one was "Don't go down the Mine Dad".

Also on top of the dressing table was a baby brush and comb, and a baby powder box complete with a powder puff. The remaining furniture was a large square table, inlaid with the top of a draught board, which was used a lot on dark nights. The room also contained two light cane bottomed chairs, and two large tin trunks which contained in one the best clothes of the family and in the other was stored blankets etc. The floor was covered with peg rugs.

The other bedroom contained two beds. One was a three quarter bed and the other was a single bed. Here four children slept, Lily and Violet in the three quarter bed and Ted and myself in the single bed. The mattresses were horsehair and the bedding white and well patched sheets and pillow cases, always nice white and clean. An array of blankets, some knitted ones, topped with coloured counterpanes and patchwork quilts. The only other furniture was a corner dressing table on which stood a small "Kelly" lamp. Again home made pegged rugs on the floor, and lace curtains up at the small window similar to the ones in the front bedroom. Of course there was the usual chamber pot under each bed.

Looking out of the window, was a field we referred to as the "croft". It had at one time been allotments but the whole area had become overgrown. It was on this piece of land where we had our yearly bonfire on Nov 5th, not many fireworks but a huge fire. l don't remember having any eats, but Mum did make bonfire toffee. Beyond the croft*[see later reference] was a bowling green belonging to the brewery. We used to go there on Saturday and Sunday afternoons in the summer. They allowed us to play on the green during tea breaks, then we used to finish off all the remaining sandwiches, when they had finished eating them.

The Cellar This was a place of mystery to me. It was dark and damp, candles being the main means of lighting. Here the coal was stored along with logs for the fire, dropped into the cellar via a wooden covered chute at the front of the house next to the door. Next to the coal was a stool [wooden box] in front of a chopping block. Here Dad chopped the sticks with the help of Ted and myself. Hanging down from the ceiling was Mum's "sit up and beg" bicycle, which we played with, turning the pedals to make the wheels spin. There was an odd array of tools stored down there, such as saws, hammers and the likes. Hanging on the wall was the zinc bath which was used on bath nights. Empty bottles and jam jars were stacked in the corner, also a sack bag into which old rags, clothing and rabbit skins were put; these were taken to the local scrap yard and exchanged for coppers.

The Toilet [closet as we called it] was across the yard. We shared with the old man and his son who lived next door to us. This was rather a cold place to visit in the winter, and a bit of an ordeal when it was raining and we had to dress up in raincoats and souwesters to pay a visit. I can remember the Tub Closet being there but I can't remember using them, but then water closets were installed, and I can remember the pathways being dug up to accommodate these.

The Residents Some of the characters I remember at Spital Row were as follows:-

The Chimney sweep who paid us regular visits was a Mr. Fenton, a one armed man. It was fascinating to watch him holding the rods under the stump of one arm and pushing them up the chimney with the other hand. We would then run out into the garden and look up at the chimney pot for the brush to come out.

We had two insurance agents who called weekly for the odd coppers insurance money, one from the "Pearl" and the other from the "Refuge". There was also a man who called weekly to pay off the doctors bills [no National Health in those days]. Each doctor's visit plus the medicines, tablets etc had to be paid for. If you needed hospital treatment, one had to get a "Recommend" from your employer or local business man, who had donated to the hospital's upkeep. Mum was also a member of a clothes club, and a chap used to call every Friday night for his share of mum's house keeping for this.

Rabbit pies and stews were often on the menu at home. These were purchased from a man at the door, with his bicycle handle bars laden with them. He was no doubt a poacher, but they made a cheap meal.

Another man who called was the Pykelet man who would appear with a basket full of them, ringing a large handbell to tell us of his approach.

There was also a man who had a allotment who used to visit on Saturday mornings with new potatoes, peas, beans, greens and the like when they were in season.

Milk: A Mrs Barker was the milk lady. She came daily in her milk float with churns and buckets on. She measured the milk out into our jugs and basins. In the summer she called in the morning and evenings. Fridges were not heard of in those days.

Bread: A Mr Knott was the baker. He would make a delivery every other day, the bread being baked in his own bakery at Coddington and the transported to his customers in his own little van. The bread was always freshly baked.

Hairdresser: Across the road in Northgate was Bob Skipworth's barber shop, where l paid 2d [old money] for a haircut, and some years later l had to take my little brother [Ernest] for his haircut, and he screamed the place down and demanded to be taken home ["Take me home Artki.. Take me home"].

Mr Sketchfield was our cobbler, where at least one pair of shoes were taken each week for repair.

Pratts in Carter Gate and Bushes in Kirk Gate is where we purchased our fish. We mostly had fish on Fridays, and it was the job of one of the older children to collect this before going to school. Again no fridges to keep the fish in.

Godfreys the butcher in Northgate supplied us with our meat. Always a joint on Sundays, but sausage, liver, tripe, chops, sheep's head and bones for broths in the week. Again it was one of the older children to do this before going to school.

We brought our butter, marg, and cheese from the Maypole Dairy. Bacon, ham hocks and the likes from "Porters" in the Market Place. These were weekly buys. Other groceries such as jams, sauces, eggs and pickles we got from little shops, including paraffin oil for the lamps and heater.

The family certainly wasn't wealthy at Spital Row, but they were very happy days there.

© E.W. Bullimore 2001
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History of Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, England