Bert's Town - Part 03 - A Choice Of Routes
w/e 26 April 2009
All this week's pictures were taken with a Kodak DX6490
D H Lawrence's Eastwood

The Lawrence SnackeryMechanics' Institute PlaqueAs we approach the top of Mansfield Road the reminders of D H Lawrence and his connections with Eastwood come thick and fast. The property at the junction with Princes Street has been restored to look as it did when Bert lived here and now trades as the Lawrence Snackery (left) whilst on another building a little further up the hill is the third blue information board (right) on the Blue Line Trail.

Mechanics' Institute

The building in question is the former Mechanics' Institute and the blue board which is just visible in the image above directly above the orange van tells us that the Institute was a nineteenth century version of a working mans' adult education college. Institutes such as this were often funded by wealthy industrialists and local colliery owner Thomas Barber was the first president of this one in Eastwood. The Institute also housed a lending library that was open for just two hours each week on a Thursday and both Bert Lawrence when in his mid teens and a young Jessie Chambers with whom he had his first romantic relationship used the collection of some 1500 books extensively. The information board concludes "his future work was certainly influenced by this early introduction to literature."

Lawrence was born on 11th September 1885 and had a number of poems published in 1909 by Ford Madox Ford in 'English Review' after they had been submitted by Jessie Chambers. Four years later his now famous novel 'Sons and Lovers' was published but this was after it had been rejected by Heinemann. The rejection caused him to write to a friend "Curse the blasted, jelly-boned swines, the slimy, the belly-wriggling invertebrates, the miserable sodding rutters, the flaming sods, the snivelling, dribbling, dithering, palsied, pulse-less lot that make up England today" which makes one wonder whether this outburst was as a result of his studies of the books in the library or whether it was as a result of hearing this language among the working class miners in Eastwood.

'Sons and Lovers' of course was based on his childhood and the character of Miriam in the novel owes a lot to his sweetheart Jessie. The second plaque on the Literary Trail is embedded into the footpath outside the Institute and carries the following quotation from the novel: "The library was open in two rooms in the Mechanics Hall, on Thursday evenings from 7 till 9. Paul always fetched the books for his mother, who read a considerable amount, and Miriam trudged down with five or six volumes for her family. It became a custom for the two to meet in the library."
Alternative Routes

Just a few steps from the Mechanics' Institute the Blue Line Trail splits and offers a choice of route. Passing through the archway leads directly to the D H Lawrence Birthplace Museum in less than a hundred yards (or metres if you prefer). The gate at the arch is sometimes locked so the alternative route is to carry on up Mansfield Road, left into Nottingham Road and left again to access the museum on Victoria Street.
Craft Workshops

Adjacent to the museum are a number of Craft Workshops (left and above). In this complex of working studios, mainly housed in the old refurbished cottages on Scargill Walk it is possible to watch craftsmen and women at work with many of the efforts of their toils available to purchase as souvenirs. Both the Birthplace Museum (which we shall see in a later part in this series) and the Craft Workshops can be also be accessed by either route but as we are also combining the Blue Line Trail with the Literary Trail we shall return through the archway to continue up Mansfield Road.
Phoenix Monument

On regaining Mansfield Road the most prominent feature opposite (if you can ignore the telecommunications mast) is the seating area in the middle of a car parking area. I am led to understand that this is the D H Lawrence Memorial and I think at one time an information board was attached to the structure. At present though no such board is apparent but the phoenix symbol on the domed roof of the seat suggests the connection to the author who of course adopted the phoenix as his personal symbol. In fact the symbol can be seen all around the town and even the safety railings at the edge of the footpaths have the symbol incorporated into their design.
Mansfield Road

Some of those railings can be seen in this view towards Brinsley back down Mansfield Road from its junction with Nottingham Road. The edge of another seat can also be seen in the bottom right hand corner of the picture and if you look closely you will also be able to see the third of those literary plaques among the cobbles. This one contains another quotation from 'Sons and Lovers': "They came near to the colliery. It stood quite still and black among the corn-fields, its immense heap of slag seen rising almost from the oats. What a pity there is a coal-pit here where it is so pretty," said Clara. "Do you think so?" he answered. "You see, I am so used to it, I should miss it." Clara's companion would no doubt be missing it today for coal-pits in the area have long gone.

We make a brief foray off the Blue Line Trail here to cross Mansfield Road to see the fourth plaque on the Literary Trail outside the Sun Inn where an information board on the wall of the inn details a five mile circular walk to Brinsley and back plus another that proclaims the inn was the birthplace of the Midland Railway in 1832. This literary plaque has another quotation from 'Sons and Lovers' that reads: "Mrs Morel loved her marketing. In the tiny market-place on the top of the hill, where four roads, from Nottingham and Derby, Ilkeston and Mansfield meet, many stalls were erected."

The Sun Inn

Derby RoadThe market stalls that Mrs Morel loved stood in front of the Sun Inn but road widening and the introduction of a one way system (left) around the inn mean that any market trader would be quite foolhardy to attempt any business here today especially with the volume of traffic that passes. The Sun Inn dates back to 1750 and has several claims to fame. Besides that meeting Nottingham Roadin 1832 when local colliery owners agreed to contribute £32,000 towards the development of a railway, it was also prominent as a watering hole for workers marching to Nottingham in 1817 during the 'Pentrich Revolution'. Maybe not quite so noteworthy but not surprisingly it was also one of the haunts of Bert's father, a heavy drinker who often crossed its threshold. Crossing back over Mansfield Road we now rejoin the Blue Line Trail to continue into Nottingham Road (right).

Back to Part 02
 Bert's Town Index
Forward to Part 04

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