In recent blog posts, I have explored, predominantly, major themes concerning the life of Lottie Martin. By researching such themes as war, home and family, education, labour and culture, there has been little room to explore how all these themes are connected with Lottie’s place of birth. Thus I hope this blog will provide great insights into contextualising Lottie’s life within her working-class environment.
Born into an ordinary working-class family, Lottie Martin grew up in Beeston, Nottingham in 1899. As her published memoir, Never Let Anyone Draw the Blinds, specifically informs us, her exact residence was ‘8 Greyhound Yard, High Road, Beeston’. Indeed, one assumes that working-class communities were dominated with back-to-back terraced housing, living in unprecedented and unhealthy conditions. However, High Road appeared to be a place of community and indeed austerity. Although – after continuous research – I could not find images or documentations of the exact address of Greyhound Yard, there is plenty of online information surrounding the history of High Road.
Today, High Road, Beeston still exists and has a range of shopping facilities with a desirable postcode. This is not unlike High Road of the past. As the image below illustrates, High Road – during the period of Lottie’s adolescence – contained many shops and amenities.
Just from this image, one can see how High Road is rooted in history. There are many building with Tudor revival architecture, a key aspect of nineteenth century design. Yet this image also illustrates the sense of community within Beeston; there are children playing in the street and families shopping in this vibrant location.
Central to my research into the history of Beeston has been an incredibly informative website: www.beeston-notts.co.uk. It is from this website where I have become indebted to a range of information that not only provides historical insights into the community of Beeston, but engages with the lives of many people from this area from the past. Thus this also makes this website a great place for people to delve into family ancestry. It was from this website that I was able to obtain the bibliographical details into discovering that Lottie Martin’s memoir – found on the Burnett Archive under the surname Barker – was in fact published under her maiden name Martin with the title Never Let Anyone Draw the Blinds.
Indeed, www.beeston-notts.co.uk is a central place for anyone looking to explore their genealogy. From this website, I have found information of a Martin family dating back to the eighteenth century from a provided image of a gravestone. Here is the fascinating find:
This gravestone reads:
‘To the memory of
husband of Mary Martin
died February 14 1779
A loving husband and father dear. A faithful friend .. here
also the above Mary Martin
who died Decr 8th 1809
O happy hour that call’d me home.
My children dear prepare to come
Thomas the son of John and Mary Martin died Jan 6th 1777 in the 3 year of his age
Although this is only speculation, one cannot ignore the potential connection to Lottie Martin as this is only one of two documented records of a Martin family within Beeston. Even if this family is not connected to Lottie, we can see the sense of history within this community. The information provided above is also from the early nineteenth-century. If one was to explore further Beeston’s Cemetery, one will definitely find the gravestone of Lottie’s parents as Lottie informs us: ‘he [Lottie’s father] was sixty four when he passed away, and is buried in the same grave as my mother in Beeston Cemetery along with the little girl Lily’.
Beeston can be dated back to the Saxon age. Yet its status as a village emerged from its silk weaving centre in the early nineteenth century. Again, www.beeston-notts.co.uk has a range of material surrounding the silk industry within Beeston. In 1826, the silk mill was erected in Beeston by William Lowe, a Nottingham hosier who had strong links with Beeston. This mill processed raw silk to form threads suitable for use in hosiery knitting, weaving and sewing. It was from the emergence of this mill that generated a huge amount of employment for many working-class residents. The following table illustrates just how many jobs were created from the mill.
It is also interesting to note that Lottie’s mother was also connected with the silk trade. As Lottie tells us:
‘All my young life I remember my mother working, when she had tidied the house, out would come the lace work. This method of swelling the family budget was carried out in most working class families … the lace was taken from the factory to individual houses’.
This ultimately highlights how the silk trade created great financial opportunities to working-class families. After domestic duties, Lottie’s mother was able to work with lace to help swell ‘the family budget’.
Yet this can also be taken further back in time when Lottie mentions how her grandfather was involved in the knitting industry. Lottie writes: ‘my grandfather was employed in the hosiery trade teaching the art of knitting by machines, he being an experienced hand at this, the new ways of making stockings’. Indeed the ‘new ways’ of making stockings illustrates the influx of the silk trade and its impacts on society. It seems that the silk industry was at the heart of the Beeston community not only giving its status as a village but enabling many working class people to become employed.
Alongside historical information surrounding Beeston, www.beeston-notts.co.uk provides many memoirs written by local residents from the past, memoirs waiting to be explored and researched further. Amongst such memoirs is one by a Constance Annie Mayfield entitled: ‘Memoirs of Constance Annie Mayfield – in her own words’.
Unlike Lottie, Constance seemed to live in impoverished conditions: ‘The house was 2 storey with the living area on ground level and the bedrooms upstairs closed off by a door leading to a staircase. There was no laid on water’. Not only does this quotation provide us with a vivid sense of the claustrophobic and impoverished conditions to which Constance Annie Mayfield was subjected, it also illuminates the sense of the working-class community within Beeston. In fact, the Mayfield family emigrated from England to Australia in 1921 which perhaps dramatizes the concept of poverty amongst the labouring classes as they wished to escape pecuniary instability and enter into a world of potential financial prospects.
Overall, we can see how Beeston was – and indeed still is – packed with history, dating back to the Saxon times. Despite Lottie growing up in a working-class family, her surroundings were not entirely impoverished. Lottie was amongst the many prosperous shops of High Road; a place that was not only vital for amenities, but an area where everyone could congregate to share the local gossip.