Thursday, July 16, 2015

Bestwood Country Park

On Saturday we joined with friends from Beeston in Nottingham and others at a free event organised by the Nottinghamshire Local History Association.  The setting was the 690 acres Bestwood Country Park and in particular what remains of the former Bestwood Colliery.


We were taken on a guided tour of the Winding Engine House which was once the driving force of both the colliery and iron works at Bestwood.  Below you can see the Winding Engine House, headstocks and cage over the now fully capped down shaft.  The up-shaft has been demolished.

This vertical, twin-cylindered winding engine, built in 1876, is the only one of its kind left in Britain preserved thanks to a group of local people who banded together in the 1990s to save the winding engine for future generations.  Those of us with ancestors who were colliers, coal hewers and miners (and I have lots of those) as well as the odd tailor, saddler, cheese and butter maker, iron founder, ferrule maker, farmer, lace maker, dress maker and nail maker.  My grandfather was an ostler who went to work down the pit to look after the pit ponies and suffered from miner's lung in his later years.  When I saw the cage I thought about his father, my great grandfather who, in March 1907 was killed, not at this colliery but one on the Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire borders, when the cage he was travelling in broke and tipped and threw out three of the occupants.  He was one of them,  the survivors were left hanging in the cage until they were rescued. The empty cage at Bestwood was a chilling sight.  The colliery finally closed in 1967.


Inside the Engine house was quite amazing. The guide told us it is made with top quality materials with a fine and elaborate finish even in the timber roof.  The wheel now runs on electricity but the mechanism of the steam charged engine is still all there, in fact, as the guide told us, if they ever took it out the brick housing would collapse.  There is easy access to the ground floor and a modern glass lift to the floors above.  



The only other part of the old buildings still standing is the Dynamo House, a former electrical substation which now houses photographs and information about the history of the Bestwood Coal and Iron Company in its heyday as well as documents and artifacts.  Children can dress in period costume and the Friends of Bestwood Country Park and the Bestwood village WI provide refreshments on Saturday mornings between 10a.m. and 12 noon.




After lunch we went over to the opposite side of the Country Park to walk in the woods there.


Before Bestwood Park became a hot bed of industrial activity it was a Hunting Forest and part of the larger Royal Sherwood Forest.  It was popular with the local gentry and visiting monarchs who would come for hunting.  In medieval times there was a hunting lodge here and the area was enclosed with pale fences and ditches to become Bestwood Park.  My main interest in seeing this part of the park is its connection with Richard III for it was here in August 1485, where he had travelled from Nottingham Castle, his castle of 'care' to enjoy a few days hunting with friends when he heard that Henry Tudor had landed at Milford Haven and was making his way across country, he left Bestwood Lodge on 19th August to make his way towards Leicester and on 22nd August to his end on the battlefield of Bosworth. 



 The enclosed park remained in the hands of the crown and it was on a visit to here by Charles II and his mistress Nell Gwynne that he gifted the Lodge and park to Nell and their illegitimate son the 1st Earl of St Albans.  During Queen Victoria's reign the 10th Duke of St Albans made many changes to the estate.  These include the building of the new lodge, the building of the grand entrance at Alexandra Lodge and establishing the Bestwood Coal and Iron Company. He and his Duchess were also responsible for the creating of the colliery village and the housing of the colliery workers there.



The lodge is now an hotel and after our walk down to the Alexandra Lodge (above) we stopped there for a sit in the cool lounge with a pot of tea.

Above and below - photos of the present Bestwood Lodge

Inside the lounge was cool and airy

We sat in the cool leather chairs and drank our tea before walking back to the car park.


A lovely, companionable day out with friends with a history lesson or two along the way.

16 comments:

  1. Interesting post, didn't know about the connection to Richard III.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the visit, Janet:)

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  2. It must have been terrifying going down the mines in those cages. People really did suffer to bring home a wage. You are such a knowledgeable historian Rosie. I enjoy history but find it hard to remember who's who when it comes to nobility and gentry! I am glad that you had an enjoyable day out. x

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    1. I used to remember dates and places but I find that as I get older I have to look things up that I once knew off the top of my head:)

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  3. It looks like a really interesting place! I really need to visit Nottingham... I've only been once and that was 10 years ago!

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    1. Bestwood is sort of in between Hucknall and Nottingham close to Papplewick. There is quite a lot to do at the country park:)

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  4. Lovely post Rosie. Susan and I really enjoyed our day with you and Paul, and you noticed things I have never noticed. It is always good to get another perspective on a place. Particularly liked the etched glass above the door, which I will have to look for the next time I go to the Winding Engine House.

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    1. We did have a lovely day, didn't we? I loved the etched glass over the dynamo house doorway. There were so many interesting things to see:)

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  5. That's wonderful. It's practically on my doorstep and I had no idea it was there! I will make a point of visiting sometime. Thank you for sharing your trip with us.

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    1. It is worth a visit and a tour of the engine house if you can. The walks there are lovely too especially around The Lodge/Hotel:)

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  6. Love your enthusiasm for a place that you have historical connections to. You seem to know a lot about your encestors. Any that painted in the Potteries? My great grandfather did.

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    1. I don't have any potters in my direct line but on one of the branches there was a pottery factory owner - Gough and Till in Newhall/Church Gresley which is South Derbyshire. Most of my ancestors lived and worked in South Derbyshire and along the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire borders on one side and Leicestershire/ Lincolnshire on the other. I also have ancestors from Birmingham and Fife in Scotland mixed in a long the way. I've been doing family history since 1988 so have gathered lots of information. How wonderful to have a pottery painter in your family, which firm did he work for?

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  7. It must have been a very interesting and very moving visit for you. It sounds like a fascinating place to go with a lot of history to find out about. xx

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    1. Yes, it was moving to see the cage even though it wasn't where the accident happened. It is a fascinating place:)

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  8. It's a good thing that the winding house at Bestwood has been preserved, the mining industry is virtually gone now but it's an important part of our country's history. I was really interested in the Richard III connection too, I'm currently reading one if John Ashdown-Hill's books about him.

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    1. Yes, it is a very important part of our history, I think the last Nottinghamshire pit closed last week at Thoresby. I've read one of John Ashdown-Hill's books The Last Days of Richard III:)

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