The Old Village Green
The original ancient Green was a much larger area complete with a natural pond situated to the south of the Green of today, about which there appears to be little information. Over the years this land has slowly been sold off and built on. A pathway called The Twitchell once went across this Green from Bar Road to Low Street, since blocked off by housing.
George Bee who lived in the village from 1883 to1968 recollects in his memoirs that for one evening nearly every summer there would be donkeys on the Green, giving children rides around the village for one penny.
Sometimes there would be a large boat drawn by a horse, rocking by means of a crank arrangement, which also carried children around the village.
He also recollected seeing a German band playing stringed instruments, a dancing bear, a hurdy-gurdy and a piano on two wheels. It seems likely that he is referring to the old Green and not the Green of today.
Excavations during some recent building work uncovered five round pits measuring approximately 18 inches diameter and three foot deep. The reason for these is as yet unknown, they have been inspected by an archaeologist and a report is awaited.
Todays Village Green and Spinney
The 1777 enclosure map shows the village green and spinney of today as an area bounded on the north and west side by village streets and on the south and east by two plots. It is unclear whether there were any dwellings but a small enclosure is shown on the east side which was probably the Pinfold or Pound. This was used to hold stray animals until their owners reclaimed them, for which they were obliged to pay a fee. It was also used by Drovers to contain their farm animals overnight when passing through the area, for which they too paid a fee.
The Pinfold, situated behind the Recreation Room was bought, along with some of the surrounding area, by the Parish Council in the 1970’s for £200 from Miss Nora Watson, a major benefactor to the village. The Pinfold was demolished c1980’s. The outline of the west wall of the Pinfold can clearly be seen in the east wall of the house behind the Recreation Room. The Electricity Substation, built in the same area in 1992, stands in roughly what would have been the centre of the Pinfold.
Much of early day life in the village seems to have centred on and around The Green, with several Tradesmen located there. These included at least three Cordwainers (Boot and Shoe Makers), as well as a Blacksmiths and Coopers.
Not far away there was also a Public House, one of several in the village, called The Hare and Hounds, which closed in 2000 and is now a private residence.
At one time a wooden hut situated next to the Hare and Hounds, supplied the village with Fish and Chips and was owned by different families by the name of Hattersley followed by the Willertons and then the Wrights. At the back of this wooden hut, long since demolished, there was a small shop selling sweets.
Nearby was a shop owned and run by John Taylor, which was later bought by the Gainsborough Cooperative Society and a manager called Mr Stan Harrison, who lived next door, ran the business. The shop closed some time ago, becoming a private dwelling.
Different families ran the Blacksmiths for many years by the name of Jubb and Ireland before being taken over by John Abraham Holmes when it became known as the Blacksmiths and Shoeing Smiths. Built c1820 and owned by the Parish, it was decided at a Vestry Meeting in 1838, that it should be sold along with other property on the Green. It is not known who bought it, but the 1866 Tithe Book records the then owner as Mr Duckle. When the Blacksmiths ceased trading is also unclear. It then became a Joiners owned by Mr John Wharton, but has since closed and is privately owned.
Several dwellings, owned by the Parish, once stood on different parts of the Green. A row of Almshouses with gardens stood on the northern edge, these were provided for the poor of the village and maintained by the “Overseers of the Poor”, appointed by the Church. Money was obtained from the renting of land allocated at the time of the Enclosures for this purpose. In Beckingham this included two acres of land situated on the Trent side, immediately to the north of the Old Trent Road, for many years owned by Watson’s Shipbuilders and in recent years by the Trent Wharfage Co. The money was used by the Overseers of the Poor to provide among other things, money for widows and the education of some poor children of the village. These houses were demolished in the late 1800’s.
In the area now called the Spinney, there were four cottages. One was inhabited by a Lucy Gill and her daughter Ivy, along with their many cats, which even after moving out, Ivy regularly came back to feed! These cats eventually became feral, causing something of a problem.
A Mrs Holmes lived in another cottage which was used as a shop, selling anything from paraffin to sweets. Part of another was used for storage, making the already small cottage even smaller. Mr Les Southwell, a Plumber, lived in another. It is also believed that the Watson family used a cottage on the Green as a coach house. The last of these cottages was demolished in the late 1970’s.
On the edge of the Spinney next to Whartons Joiners there once stood a wooden Rate Collectors hut. The Parish Council erected a bus shelter in the same area in the 1970’s. This was later moved to Low Street opposite The Croft when Bar Road was split into two becoming a no through road, caused by the construction of the A631 dual carriageway and the changing of the bus route.
Over the years the Spinney became overgrown and something of a dumping ground for rubbish. In 2006 the Parish Council, who were the owners, decided to clear out the area and tidy it up along with some local residents. Now much improved, there are plans to use it for the benefit of the community. There has been a rookery in the Spinney for many years and records of nests have been kept since 1985. In that year there were only 4 nests, but this gradually increased over the years to 19 nests recorded in 2007. The cutting down of trees and clearing of the area does not appear to have disturbed them too much. Seats have been added to the area in recent months, including a bench seat generously donated by the Madin family in memory of Benjamin and Flossie Madin. There is also a picnic bench paid for with money donated by North Notts. Lions as well as a bench seat obtained through Building Better Communities. Other improvements continue to be made.
As a result of the clearing of the Spinney, which had been used as a playground for many years by local children, a Cycle Track was built and designed by them with the help of the Parish Council. This was situated on the edge of the Village Hall playing field and although well used in the beginning has now been closed to be demolished.
The Parish Council owns the Recreation Room and the Shop as well as the Spinney and the Green. The remaining properties are all privately owned. The pair of semi-detached houses was originally three dwellings, it is unknown when they were converted into two. The Green itself is a small but attractive area with some young trees and two large well tended planters. There are two special features, one of which is Theo, a large owl carved from an ash tree, which had become diseased. In front of Theo is a bench seat obtained through Building Better Communities.
The other is the Millennium Feature, built by the Parish Council to commemorate the year 2000. A red telephone kiosk stands on the north corner, which the Parish Council made an attempt to purchase when it was at risk of being removed in 1988.
This was refused, but the kiosk has stayed. It has since become a book exchange. Next to this there is a Parish notice board for the use of the village community.
On the west side in front of the Post Office and Village Shop a pillar post box was erected in 2005 to replace the small wall post box that was in the wall of the Recreation Room. There is a wooden bench outside the shop, erected in 2002 by the parents of Peter Walker, in memory of their son. The Green is still a popular place today and has been the scene of many village events such as, Summer Fetes and the ever popular Victorian Christmas Markets. Every Christmas a large tree is put up and decorated along with a small nativity scene. A Tree Lighting ceremony is held, when a short blessing takes place and carols are sung, led by the local schoolchildren and of course there is the visit from Santa!
In the year 2000, at a Parish Council meeting, it was proposed by the then Chairman, Mr Peter Jackson, that a Monument should be built on the Village Green to commemorate the Millennium. This was agreed and after several false starts along with much discussion on the positioning and design, often taking place over a pint or two in the local hostelry, things finally got underway.
The work began in the late summer of 2001 and was carried out by two local building contractors, Pip Adams and Alan Killelay, ably assisted by Trevor Whiting and Peter Jackson. It was decided that an original stone, which had been discovered by Pip Adams whilst doing some building work in the village, should be incorporated into the design. The origins of the stone are uncertain, thought to be either a wheelwrights stone or a millstone bought into the village but never used.
The stone lay for many years in a garden before being donated to the village for the Monument. It was recovered by many hands, assisted by Ron Heaton and his Telehoist, then stored in Robert Smithson’s yard, where it was engraved by Bill Benson, a retired stonemason from Messingham.
Also included in the design was a Blacksmith’s Anvil, believed to have been used to make tines which were fitted to wooden wheels, along with two Ship Mooring Bollards from Beckingham Shipyard, donated by Trent Wharfage.
Most of the materials were donated, the bricks by Jackson Building Centre, coping stones by Ian Sykes, the paving stones and plants by Hugh Smith, seating by John Wharton and the gravel by Ernie Levick.
A time capsule was placed inside the Monument containing, photographs, local information and other items relating to the village and the year 2001. It was finally completed at the end of November that year.
An official Opening Ceremony was held on 8th December, together with the Village Carol Service and the turning on of the Christmas Tree lights, which was well attended by many people from the village. A short speech was given by Canon Frank Levick, who also blessed the Millenium Feature. The addition of lighting was proposed and added in April of 2002, making it an attractive feature on the Village Green, along with “Theo” the carved owl, to be enjoyed by both the community and visitors alike.
Beckingham Owl casts a watchful eye over The Green at Beckingham.
2 Ash Trees were due to be felled because of disease and Charles Fenton who felled one of the trees suggested the other to be made into a sculpture which after some thought the Parish Council agreed.
The Long-Eared Owl was made by Tom Harvey (Dryad Tree Care) who used a chainsaw and grinder to create his sculpture.
Work was started in October 2003. Scaffolding was put up around the tree and there was immense interest with people calling to chat and the local schoolchildren visited. The making of the owl took 5 days and a competition to name it was won by Richard Steel who correctly named it as Theo. Theo was the name suggested by Tom Harvey (THEO wl). Theo was unveiled by Mrs Elsham (whose father had planted the three trees on the green) at the Carol Service held on The Green in 2003. The owl is treated with Danish Oil yearly and originally stood 12 foot tall.
However major restoration had to be carried out in 2012. The village was at serious risk of losing Theo, when it was found to be rotting at the base making it unstable. The Parish Council who own the land contacted a tree surgeon to inspect the damage and advise a course of action. Unfortunately to do this it was necessary to cut the owl down and on inspection the damage was found to be rather severe.
The base had almost been destroyed and reduced to dust by disease which was slowly moving further up inside the owl. The Parish Council was advised to have four foot removed from the base and to have the remainder thoroughly treated. It was suggested that a plinth be built onto which the owl could be secured and would then probably last for another ten years. Not wanting the village to lose the popular attraction, this action was given the go ahead.
So Theo was carefully taken away to be safely stored whilst a base was built for it to stand on as near to its original position as possible. A circular plinth was constructed consisting of a brick surround filled with concrete onto which the owl is firmly secured. The plinth has been finished with paving slabs neatly cut to surround the base of the owl.The plinth work was carried out by Jonathan Heath and John Foster.
Theo was returned to his rightful place, a little shorter than before, but still casting a watchful eye over the world. Hopefully it will be possible for him to continue to be enjoyed, admired and respected by villagers and visitors alike for some years to come.
Sadly Theo is no longer in residence having been removed for safety reasons. The plinth remains for now.