Bert's Town - Part 02 - Beginning The Trails
w/e 22 March 2009
All this week's pictures were taken with a Kodak DX6490
D H Lawrence's Eastwood

In the introduction and first part of our look around Bert's Town (Eastwood) we concentrated on the outlying areas and saw some of the sites associated with D H Lawrence (Bert) and his writings. Several of those sites were on the main road between Brinsley and Eastwood and it is to Mansfield Road that we now return to begin following the Blue Line and Heritage Trails.

Durban House

Both trails start outside the Durban House Heritage Centre which also featured in Bert's life and his writing. The centre contains exhibits of the life and times of Lawrence but at the time of writing is facing an uncertain future due to a proposed cut in the level of funding from the local council who acquired the building in 1995. Lawrence used Durban House which was built in 1876 as offices for the Barber, Walker Coal Company as a location in "Sons and Lovers" and it was well known to him as he would often collect his father's wages from here whilst still a boy. Today (for the time being at any rate) the Centre houses conference, meeting and training facilities, a restaurant and the Rainbow Gallery for contemporary visual arts.

Since its acquisition by the Broxtowe Borough Council, the Heritage Centre has undergone extensive refurbishment including the fitting of a new clock in 1998. The original clock could not be found during the renovation work but a new clock was donated by the contractors Mowlem and Company. An interesting aside to this is that the mains powered clock has an automatic device to restart it at the correct time in the event of a power failure which can also be used to control British Summer Time changes - only it doesn't seem to be working! This picture was taken at 9:53am despite what you may see above. I imagine that in Bert's day the miners would depend on the accuracy of the clock and it would not have been allowed to show the incorrect time.
Mansfield Road

So it is from outside the Heritage Centre that we begin to follow the trails up the Mansfield Road hill towards the centre of the town. The Blue Line Trail indicated as might be expected by a painted blue line along the footpath is the first of its kind in England and approval for its use had to be obtained from the Government's Department of Transport. The inspiration for the trail came from the red-lined Freedom Trail of Boston USA. A second route which follows some of the same route is the Literary Trail and this is indicated by small phoenix symbols embedded in the tarmac, two of which are visible in the above image. This second trail came about as part of the Eastwood Phoenix Project which was set up to prevent decline, regenerate and help Eastwood to remain a market town for the community around it. The phoenix of course represents something rising from the ashes or new life from old and DHL adopted it as his personal symbol. Posthumously a collection of his papers were published under the title "Phoenix" in 1936 and a second collection "Phoenix II" in 1968.
Literary Plaque

At various points along the trails are numbered information boards (Blue Line) and engraved plaques (Literary) bearing information about the writer and quotations Information Boardfrom his works. The board here (left) tells about the Barber Walker offices, how he collected his father's wages and mentions that he later included it in "Sons and Lovers" while the plaque seen both in the previous image and viewed here from directly above contains the relevant quotation from the book:

"These offices were quite handsome; a new, red-brick building, almost like a mansion, standing in its own well-kept grounds at the end of Greenhill Lane. The waiting room was the hall, a long, bare room paved with blue brick, and having a seat all round, against the wall."
Princes Street

A second board stands at the entrance to Princes Street at its junction with Mansfield Road. Princes Street today shows some obvious signs of regeneration but has retained the character of the mining village of Bert's day. The information on the board explains the history of the area and reads:

The 19th century saw a huge increase in the amount of coal produced by this region. This in turn led to a steady influx of workers and their families coming to Eastwood to be part of the hard and dangerous, but well-rewarded coal mining trade. Eastwood had to expand physically to meet the need of its growing population.
Typical Cottage

This typical cottage at the end of Princes Street still has what looks like the original street name plate. The information on the board continues:

Barber Walker and Co., the local colliery company, built houses in this area to house their workforce of miners. They were great quadrangles of buildings on the hillside known locally as 'the squares' or 'the buildings'. Lawrence later described them as "sordid and hideous." Princes Street, ahead, formed the lower edge of the square and gives some sense of how the area might have looked in Lawrence's time.

Back to Part 01
 Bert's Town Index
Forward to Part 03

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