The Bowder Stone: A Cumbrian ‘Old Stone’ with a Nottingham connection

by Frank E Earp

Now that summer is over, don’t you just hate it when someone gets out their ‘holiday snaps’ and regales you with stories of their last trip? Unfortunately, that is exactly what I am about to do! However, as you might have guessed, my photos are not of me lounging on a Mediterranean beach. My photo is of me sitting by an ‘old stone’ in a wooded valley in the Lake District.

The stone in question, the Bowder Stone, is said to be one of the largest natural freestanding boulders in Britain. I did not purposefully set off to Cumbria to visit the stone; even I’m not that boring. Whenever I visit a part of the country that is new to me, early in the holiday, I always try to pick up books on local folklore, ghost stories, history and the like. The first such book I acquired on my trip to the Lakes was a little booklet by a retired Geologist, Alan Smith, entitled ‘The Story of The Bowder Stone’, published in 2003. I had never heard of the Bowder Stone before and the booklet looked interesting. Imagine my surprise then, to find that the Stone has a strong Nottingham connection


The Stone and its Geology: The name Bowder Stone appears in many different variants throughout its recorded history including; ‘Boother-stone’, (William Gilpin, ‘Observations relating to Picturesque Beauty’, 1772), ‘The Bowdar Stone’, (Hutchinson, ‘History of the County of Cumberland’ 1792), and ‘Powder or Bounder Stone’, (James Clarke, ‘Survey of the Lakes of Westmorland, Cumberland and Lancashire’ 1792+). There have been suggestions that the name may be derived from ‘Balder’, the son of the Norse god Odin, however, it is more likely that it is a variant on the local dialect of the word ‘boulder’.

The Bowder Stone is situated in Burrowdale deep in the heart of the Lake District, at the southern end of Derwentwater, around 41/2 miles south of Keswick. It lies just under half a mile east of the B5289 in the narrowest point of the valley, known as ‘The Jaws of Burrowdale’. It is an extremely large, rectangular, box shaped boulder of ‘fine grained, dark greenish grey, andesite lava’. This lava spewed from a volcano sometime during the Ordovician period of the Palaeozoic Age, 485 – 443 million years ago, (far older than any of Nottinghamshire’s ‘old stones’). At around 59’ high and 26’ along its broad side, with an estimated weight of 1253 tons (Smith), its amazingly regular shape is entirely the product of nature.

Smith states that the Stone does not appear to feature in Cumbrian folklore, however this is not true. There is a tale of how the Bowder Stone came to be where it is. All over Britain there is a legend which states that when the first humans settled in these isles, they found the land inhabited by a race of giants. A war for the control of the land broke-out between the human settlers and the giants, – the giants were defeated. The Stone is said to be a missile thrown by one of the hapless giants at his human adversaries. The truth of the matter is somewhat more mundane but never the less amazing.

Sometime around the end of the last Ice Age, around 10,000 years ago, the action of centuries of severe cold fractured the exposed strata of andesite lava on what is now Bowder Crag on Kings How over 850’ above the site of the Bowder Stone. The result was a massive ‘rock-fall’, with the Bowder Stone as the largest surviving chunk of debris. Smith says that evidence of this cataclysmic event can be found all over the slope above and around the Stone.


The Bowder and its ‘tourist steps’ from the west.


The Bowder Stone from the north. “….perched on one corner like a performing elephant on one leg.” (Norman Nicholson, Great Lakeland 1969)

On the very first page of his book Alan Smith states that; “The Bowder Stone is one of the most popular visitor attractions of the Lake District.” How the Stone achieved this remarkable status is due entirely to the efforts of a Newark man with a Yorkshire name, Joseph Pocklington.

Joseph Pocklington, 1736 – 1817: Joseph Pocklington was described by one of his contemporaries as; “A man of no taste whatsoever.” For the modern historian, he is somewhat a difficult character to put a label on. One thing is certain by the standards of any age he can be counted as an eccentric. His eccentricities left their mark on the landscapes of at least two counties and famously upset Wordsworth and Coleridge, the Lakeland Poets.

Pocklington was an extremely wealthy man who acquired a number of country houses and estates in both Nottinghamshire and Cumbria. A common myth surrounding the source of his wealth suggests that he was a banker. However, this is not confirmed in any of the records of the time and is largely due to confusion with a family member of the same name. The Pocklington family had its origin in Yorkshire taking their identity from the village of that name. By the late 17th early 18th century this large and prosperous family had established numerous branches in and around Newark and parts of Lincolnshire. Much confusion occurs due to the common usage of the given names William, Roger and Joseph for male members of the family. Pocklington was himself aware of this confusion and wherever he recorded his name he added his current residence, i.e. ‘Joseph Pocklington of Newark’.

Joseph Pocklington was born in Newark, the second son of William and Elizabeth Pocklington (Rastall). He was educated at Wakefield Grammar School and went on to Jesus College Cambridge but did not finish his degree, leaving at the same time as his brother Roger. He then seems to have embarked on a tour of the British Isle, producing a sketchbook of his travels the ponderous title of which sums up his early life and later fetish for buildings and architecture:

The following are the rough plans and elevations of Castles, Houses, Druid Temples, (pre-historic monuments), Ruins, Bridges, Islands, Cascades, Landskips, Inscription etc. etc. which I took upon the spot when I rode into different parts of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland on journeys of pleasure and most faithfully drawn by me Joseph Pocklington of Carlton-on- Trent Nottingham. Never yet published or intended to be.’

In 1751 Josephs grandfather, another Roger and the source of much of his inherited wealth, died in rather strange circumstances: ‘….his death was occasioned by the wall of his apartment blown down by a violent storm about a week before, which fell on the bed where he lay and broke his thigh’ (Gentleman Magazine 1751). With the death of his grandfather Joseph inherited one of the first of his many Nottinghamshire estates, the manor of North Muskham and Batheley and immediately set-about building a new manor-house, Muskham Hall, to his own design.

The year 1778 saw Joseph become one of the first new ‘pioneers’ to settle in the Lake District admiring the region entirely for the beauty of its landscape. His first acquisition in the Lakes was Vicar’s Island in Derwentwater. He immediately changed the name to Pocklington Island, – offending the locals, – and set about building a large mansion, again to his own designs. Not content with the house he went on to re-landscape the entire island building boathouse, fort and battery, and a druid temple.

Pocklington passion for building now became an obsession and he acquired further land around Portinscale near Keswick where yet again he built a large house. Pocklington constructed the third and most lavish of his Lake District properties in 1787 when he purchased land at Barrow near Ashness on the eastern shore of Derwentwater. Not one of Pocklington’s properties were appreciated by any of his contemporise, (except perhaps his family) and he now became known for his crass lack of taste.


‘Barrow House’, the most lavish of Joseph Pocklington’s Lake District properties.

Joseph Pocklington’s building and landscape work in Cumbria brought him nothing but criticism from the ‘great and the good’ of the county. The poets Wordsworth and Coleridge openly mocked his work whilst the common man referred to him as ‘King Pocky’. Undeterred by this criticism, Pocklington continued to impose his idea of the ideals of landscape upon the many acres he owned.

In 1798 Pocklington applied his attentions to ‘improving’ the land he had acquired in Borrowdale. This land, along the side of the main road through the valley, – now a footpath/track, – contained the site of a popular local treasure, The Bowder Stone. Pocklington was fully aware of the sites potential as a tourist attraction, but it did not match his view of a ‘romantic landscape’. The first job he undertook was to clear all of the loose material around the base of the Stone. For the first time, this revealed the Stone in all its curious glory. True to his nature, Pocklington meticulous recorded the Stone’s dimensions to the extent of mathematically estimating it weight.

Next he built a fence around the Stone and the first permanent ladder to admit the public to its summit. A short distance from the Stone, Pocklington erected what he termed a ‘Druid Stone’ – a pre-historic monolith. Befitting an ancient magical place, Pocklington designed and built a mock hermitage or chapel and to control access to his ‘visitors attraction,’ a single story dwelling, – ‘Bowderstone Cottage’, – for the site’s caretaker and guide. Perhaps to conform to Georgian sensibilities, Pocklington installed a female guide in the cottage.

Pocklington’s idealized landscape around the Stone gave it the perfect false history mimicking that of other natural features like sacred springs; a natural feature which became a Druidic monument and was Christianised by the presence of a hermit’s chapel. This would have been something that the educated tourist and visitor of the day would have instantly recognised without being told. To make things more interesting, by pure chance Pocklington was able to create a new legend or tradition associated with the Stone. On clearing the Stone’s base, a natural hollow running under its north south axis was discovered. Pocklington had a small hole drilled through the base of the south-eastern side of the Stone, thus connecting the hollow with the outside world. It then became possible for those able to crawl into the hollow to ‘shake-hands for luck’, with a fellow visitor lying down on the outside of the Stone.

The stage was now set for the opening of Pocklington’s tourist attraction. To begin with Pocklington personally took his friends and guests by carriage down the rough road through Borrowdale to the Stone. Here they were greeted at the rustic cottage by his lady guide who, suitably scripted by Pocklington, would conduct her tours. From this humble beginning tours of the Bowder Stone soon became the highlight of the tourist round.

King Pocky’s reign in the Lake District came to an end when he died at one of his Nottinghmashire properties, Muskham Hall, in 1817, just 7 years after his brother Roger. Muskham hall was demolished in 1830. However, the Bowder Stone passed into new hands and continued as a popular tourist venue throughout the Victorian era and well into the early 20th century. Broken only by the presence of John Raven, the role of guide continued in the tradition of being female. Mary Caradus the guide in the 1830’s, was succeeded in the 1850’s by Mary Thompson who was in residence at Borrowdale Cottage for over 25 year.

The Bowder Stone is now in the care of the National Trust. The hollow beneath the Stone is no longer accessible; Pocklington’s chapel has been demolished, Borrowdale Cottage is now a ‘climber’s hut’, the ladder and Druid Stone remain.

In writing this article I am left wondering what would have happened if Joseph Pocklington had acquired one of Nottinghamshire’s ‘Old Stones’, – the Hemlock Stone or perhaps Blidworth Rock (the Druid Stone)?


A Victorian photo of the Bowder Stone showing tourist on its summit.

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A Cock-on-a-Stick and Mushy Peas

by Frank E Earp

In our modern multi-cultural society, the many food stalls on Nottingham’s Goose Fair now sell a wide variety of take-away meals. Walking along the road past the Pavilion at the top end of The Forest, – traditionally lined with stalls of every kind, – it is now not unusual to suddenly catch a smell of spices from the Orient, or Jamaican ‘Jerk-chicken’. Hot woks sisal away with stir-fries whilst a little further on Indian curries or Mexican fajitas are being served. It is not that long ago that the most exotic food on offer at the Fair was the British traditional ‘mushy-peas’.

How do you like your mushy-peas, perhaps the traditional way with a pinch of salt and a dash of vinegar? In parts of Yorkshire some prefer a sprinkling of sugar. There are of course still a number of stalls which still provide this delicacy, but all is not as it seems. A glance amongst the discarded rubbish of many of these stalls reveals that the use canned processed-peas. Real mushy-peas are made by carefully boiling dried peas to porridge like consistence. This results in a somewhat unappetizing grey mess and in more modern times green food colouring is added. The original mushy-peas is perhaps the oldest form of fast hot food served at the Fair and certainly compatible with a medieval origin.


Photo Credit: Joe Earp.

There are, and always have been other exotic foods and treats associated with the Fair. Among the exotic, coco-nuts and pomegranates imported as treats and of course the seasonal favourite, the toffee-apple. Baked treats include Grantham Gingerbread and Brandy-snap biscuits. All of these are still readily available, if not proportionally less popular than they have been. However, one edible item once intrinsically associated with Goose Fair, – and as far as I am aware, nowhere else, – is now all but extinct. That item is the ‘Cock-on-a-stick’, – a boiled sugar lollypop shaped in the form of a cockerel. And yes, I am aware of all of the jokes and double entendres associated with the name; and so is everyone who has ever brought one. This is all a part of the Cock’s cheeky appeal.

I remember a time when the Cock-on-a-stick, – or at least a lesser imitation, – was sold on stalls throughout the Fair. Only one exclusive outlet now remains, that of old confectioner Ray Brooks. The history of this peculiar confectionary goes back over 100 years when Ray’s grandfather Ben Brooks, is said to have created the first brightly coloured lollypop in the form of a cockerel rather than a white goose, an item already popular at that time. This was no mere whim of Ben’s, but a clever marketing ploy prompted by the ladies of Nottingham who referred to the often misshaped goose, as ‘cocks’ (cockerels). Ben’s idea was an instant success which many of his rivals tried to imitate. Ben passed on the secrets of making Cock-on-a-stick to his grandson in 1950 and Ray has continued the family business to this day.

To get his cocks ready in time for the Fair, Ray begins manufacturing in June. First, glucose and sugar are boiled to a temperature of 200° F. and then poured whilst malleable onto a flat working surface. The resulting toffee, when cooled is then ‘pulled’ turning it white. Colour is added and the toffee is broken into pieces and laid in stripes. Ray is a skilled perfectionist and each piece is cut and shaped by hand, the flourishing touch is in shaping the bird’s tail. A stick is inserted before the toffee is finally set. The finished product resembles and rivals the fine gilt cockerels on the weathervanes on church steeples.

Every year when I visit Ray’s tiny stall, I wonder if he will still be there or if this will be the last cock-on-a stick I will buy. Ray is more than well passed retirement age and unless he finds someone who is as passionate about Goose Fair’s special treat as he is and willing to continue more than 100 years tradition, the rare bird will become extinct.


Photo Credit: Joe Earp.

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The Harvest in Nottinghamshire

by Ross Parish

As autumn evenings draw in across the country, the pastoral community turned to the harvest. The harvest was a pivotal time of year in the county’s year and all rural parishes were involved with the collection and consequently it has a clear impact of the folklore custom.North Notts (1887) notes:                       

“ … 25 or 30 years ago prevailed in the county of Notts…..The last load of corn brought home from the fields was the occasion for the boys of the village to have a ride and to shout ‘Harvest Home’ for the farmers. This load would generally consist of the rakings of the field, and therefore not very valuable. Previous to our mounting the load for our ride we were careful to arm ourselves with branches of trees, the purpose for which will presently appear. On our journey from the field to the farmer’s yard, the usual hurrahs would be lustily given, and at intervals of a few minutes a well-known speech or ditty would be recited by the leading boys, two of which I can yet remember: God bless these horses which trail us home, They’ve had many a wet and weary bone. We’ve rent our clothes, and torn our skin, All for to get this harvest in. So hip, hip, hip hurrah. In another the name of the farmer would be brought in thus:- Mr. Smith he is a good man, He lets us ride home on his harvest van. He gives us bread, and cheese, and ale, And we hope his heart will never fail. So hip, hip, hip hurrah. Then, Sir, curious and barbarous as it may seem, as we drew near to houses, it was the custom to bring out water and throw it upon us as we passed along, and from which we defended ourselves with the branches of trees. If we arrived safely home without a dowsing of water, the occasion was shorn of half the fun for the boys, but that was not the worst calamity. It was supposed that farmer Smith’s yield of corn would not be so good. After arrival home apples would be distributed to the boys for their labour in shouting ‘Harvest Home.’”                                      

Another account notes a longer song:                 

“It is the custom in Nottinghamshire to make the last sheaf of the harvest big in order to ensure a good crop the next year. The youngest boys in the village ride home on the last load of wheat, the wagon being decorated with branches of trees. Apples and buckets of cold water are thrown over the boys as they ride home singing the following harvest song:  Mr. is a good man, He lets us ride his harvest home, He gives us apples, he gives us ale,  We wish his heart may never fail.  (Chorus) With a hip, hip, hurrah, A dry wagon,  a dry wagon,  A sup of cold water  To keep it from swagging.  God bless these horses that trail us home,  For they’ve had many a weary bone,  They’ve rent their clothes and torn their skin,  All for to get this harvest in.  (Chorus as before.)”                   

A correspondent to the Guardian’s Local notes and queries in 1903 notes a Sneinton Harvest Custom:    

“I may say that when a boy I have frequently ridden on the last load of corn, brought to the late Benjamin Morley Esq of Sneinton Manor….The following ditty, having been rehearsed in the harvest field, would be shouted by the boys from the top of the load, at intervals during the journey to the stackyard:- Mr Morley’s got the corn, Well sheared and well shorn, Never turned over, nor yet set fast, The harvest load’s come home at last..Hurrah!”                                                                                                                  

Mr. Morley met the load at the stackyard and the boys were given 6 pence by him. In Caunton they sung:

“Mr Barlow has got his corn, Well mown and well shorn, Never hurled over, and never stuck fast, He has his harvest home at last. Hip Hip Hurray.”

In Blidworth the workers rode back with the last harvest and the villagers threw buckets of water over them as they sang:

“Ne’er o’er holled (hurled) And ne’er stuck fast, We’ve got our harvest in at last”                                     

 This covering of the returning last load and its workers appears to have been done in East Bridgford: as a correspondent to Guardian Local notes and queries in 1903:

“It was general custom also, when the load reached the village, for the people to drench the lads with water, and many a wet shirt I had had. The last load was generally rakings so that the farmers had no objection, in fact they very often prepared quite a deluge, by having a place close to a stack where they could pour water down on the harvest home lads.”                                                            

The same correspondent notes in a memory dating back to 1883 that:                                              

“The waggoner would trim his team with ribbons, bells, flowers and evergreens and also there was stuck in the load, at the top, large ash branches, until the load looked almost like a moving tree, The verse they sang was quite similar to the one mentioned in the paper (reference to Sneinton) only that it was not quite so grammatical….”                                                                                       

In Nottinghamshire, a Harvest king or ‘queen’ was often seen. One traveller recorded seeing a man dressed in women’s clothing, his face lavishly painted and his head decorated with ears of corn, being borne on a cart amid plaudits from the crowd. Upon enquiring they were told they were drawing the Harvest queen.   There was a cheer and cakes, beer and cheese for the workers. An interesting tradition is recorded on a note in NLS which states that in early Victorian periods when drinking ale in their celebrations would turn the dripping mug after shaking out the last few drops on the ground as offerings to the fairies as good luck. At the harvest home, as Hole () notes that it was usually the case that two thirds of the men became tipsy and the rest were drunk, but in 1890 he observed that none were intoxicated. There were toasts to Queen Victoria, the local squire and the farmer. A Caunton bard’s loyal toast went as follows:                                                                      

“And now we’ll sing ‘God save the Queen’, we must not leave her out, The likes of her has ne’er been seen, Through getting rather stout, And she rules the earth from North to South, Likewise from East to West, And the man who says she doesn’t, Is a liar and a beast.”

By 1875 many of the harvest home customs had died out.

Corn Dozzills were a feature of the harvest. These were made from the stalks of the harvested wheat, possibly a Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire local variant of the corn dolly. Ratcliffe notes that the word may refer to dorsel or dosel meaning tapestry! An undated source in Nottingham’s Doubleday index notes that:                                                                           

“before the war on several occasions when the hay had been got in at a farm on Mapperley Plains we noticed the stacks were ornamented with what our correspondent calls ‘dozzils’ They were very ingenuously done, but we cannot quite recall the designs. During the first harvest of the war we met a farm hand on the footpath near Arnold ‘platting’ what he called ‘the wheat cockade’ out of three or four cornstalks. It was to be worn on the cap in the harvest field, and very dainty it looked when he had finished with it. The pretty custom of making three straw devices no doubt still lingers in some parts of Notts..”

Harvest Festivals

The decline of harvest home appears to be parallel with the rise of Harvest festivals for these church ceremonies appear to be relatively modern and replaced the more riotous and secular Harvest homes. A record of the congregational church at Castle gate Nottingham records a service of thanksgiving in 1742. It may have been a one-off as the ceremony is generally thought to have been introduced by Rev Hawker of Morwenstow in 1834 as such Hole (1901) notes:                                                                   

“Archdeacon Wilkinson Murray Rector of Southwell was the first to introduce to introduce into the Midland Counties the harvest and choral festivals which are now so universal”                                                                

The Newark Advertiser (1872) appears first recorded at 17th October at Elston when it was undertaken with a dedication to the organ. In 1905 the same paper reported:

“On Thursday last the joy-bells of harvest home resounded, and many parishioners flocked to the Parish church to once more celebrate the ingathering of the harvest. The church had been prettily decorated with flowers, fruit and corn….The chancel was decorated ….with choice plants…The sermon on Thursday evening was preached by the Rev. F. Ross of Staunton who  dwelt upon the analogy between the life of nature all around and our brief life here, enriching his discourse with many illustrations there from.”

What the article describes doubtlessly would be similar today, where despite in some cases communities being separated from the act of the harvest, the wider context of thanksgiving is still as important.  Things go full circle and it is good to see the St Ann’s allotment once more celebrating the harvest in a more celebratory fashion yet again.

Extracted from the forthcoming volume

A Nottinghamshire calendar.

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Goose Fair: More Rides

The drawing power of the Fair was so great that Madame Tussaud brought her collection of life-size wax figures to the Old Exchange, Nottingham, in 1819 and 1829. It was 1s (5p) to go in, compared with a halfpenny or penny for fairground rides.


The crowds waiting their tern, Goose Fair 2003-Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.

In the middle ages Lenton Priory fair overshadowed the Goose Fair in size and importance, Harrisons Calendar of Fairs for 1587 mentions the Lenton Fair but not the Goose Fair.


Helter Skelters, Goose Fair 2003-Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.

After Nottingham the fair splits some go to Hull on the east coast others move to Ilkeston for the following week.


One of the Oldest Merry-go-rounds, Goose Fair 2003-Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.

Over the years its not only the rides, side-shows and stalls that have changed, but the Heavy motor trucks that move it around the country have got smaller and more powerful.


The ‘Then’ New Wheel from Italy, Goose Fair 2003-Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.

Closing down when the fair was being took down, There must have been 16 cranes working on different rides. one can only imagine what is was like putting thing up by pure mucle power.

Original article by Pete Woodward (Broxtowe Hundred) and Paul Nix (Nottingham Hidden History Team) February 2003.

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Goose Fair: Rides and Stalls

Goose Fair the longest running fair in the country was granted by charter King Edward I, in 1284 that a fair will be in Nottingham once a year, The official opening is signified at noon on the first day by The Lord Mayor of Nottingham ringing a pair of silver bells, and the Town Clerk reading the Proclamation in the presence of the Sheriff of Nottingham.


‘£1 a go’, five wins gets you a lovly prize worth £2, Goose Fair 2003-Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.

First held in the market square, it seems to grow bigger every year. In 1928 it was decided that the fair had to move from the Market Square and it was transfered a mile up the road to ‘The Forest’ recreation ground on Gregory boulevard, and it is looking as though it might be on the move again


The Big Wheel, Goose Fair 2003-Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.

We are showing these pictures because it is impossible to explain in writing what makes Goose Fair so special. Loud sounds, driving music, ringing bells, shouting stall-holders and rumbling of carriages, as they go round and round, up and down with the screams of laughter and fright!


Which one is the winner, Goose Fair 2003-Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.

Picture yourself in a tree above the Goose Fair hundreds of years ago. The pungent smells and smoke of cookeries are rising above the Market Place (Old Market Square), with its sprawl of makeshift stalls and produce, that were scattered all over.

Occupying roughly the same area as today but looking larger because the frontage of houses and properties leading directly on to it.


The noise is defining, Goose Fair 2003-Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.

Today the noise, smells and excitement are still there, but somewhat overshadowed by the increasing sound of money exchanging hands.

Original article by Pete Woodward (Broxtowe Hundred) and Paul Nix (Nottingham Hidden History Team) February 2003.

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Goose Fair: Tickling the Taste Buds

At the Nottingham Goose Fair most people remember the fair for mushy peas, mint sauce, candy floss and of course the rides and beautiful show of lights.


Night Rides More Fun, Goose Fair 2003- Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.

These next few items are for those who can not “remember”, what they look like.


More Peas Going In, Goose Fair 2003-Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.

The mushy pea stall with its smell of a coal fire and peas with mint sauce.


Adding the Mint Sauce, Goose Fair 2003-Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.

The only other place I have had mushy peas with mint sauce was, some of you may remember, Central Market while out doing the Saturday shop.


“Dir yow want onions onit mi duck”, Goose Fair 2003-Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.

The burgers, hot dogs with onions are one of my faviorite stalls but they seem to have sprung up every where.


Time to Rest, Goose Fair 2003-Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.


The Tradional Cock on a Stick, Goose Fair 2003-Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.

Ray Brooks at his Cocks-on-sticks stall established in 1890, possibly the oldest surviving stall at the fair.

We’re very sorry but the smell of the cooking burgers, Hot dogs, peas, and toffee apples has been removed from this web page as it was driving us nuts!

Original article by Pete Woodward (Broxtowe Hundred) and Paul Nix (Nottingham Hidden History Team) February 2003.

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Beeston: When the Stones Came Rolling In

by Joe Earp

When the Rolling Stones began playing gigs around London in 1962, the notion that a rock & roll band would last five years, let alone fifty, was seen as an impossible notion. After all how long would rock & roll, the latest teenage fad, last for? Other factors made it unlikely that such a momentous occasion would ever come to pass. “I didn’t expect to last until fifty myself, let alone with the Stones,” Keith Richards says with a laugh. “It’s incredible, really. In that sense we’re still living on borrowed time.”

“You have to put yourself back into that time,” Mick Jagger says about those early days when he and Keith and guitarist Brian Jones roomed together and were hustling gigs wherever they could find one. “Popular music wasn’t talked about on any kind of intellectual level. There was no such term as ‘popular culture.’ None of those things existed. Mick Jagger further commented that “suddenly popular music became bigger than it had ever been before. It became an important, perhaps the most important, art form of the period, after not at all being regarded as an art form before.”

Times and attitudes quickly changed, in short, and now over five decades later, the Rolling Stones are celebrating over fifty years in the business. With literally scores of genre-setting hits under the group’s belt — and fronted by two of rock’s biggest archetypes — the Rolling Stones have done more to define the look, attitude and sound of rock & roll than any other band in the genre’s history.

What is the band’s connection with Nottingham and more importantly with Beeston you might ask? Well, the band played just two shows in Nottingham, both during the early sixties. One was at the Odeon Cinema, Angel Row in October 1963. The second gig was at the Albert Hall in March 1964.

It was after the second gig when the band gate crashed a party in Beeston. The setting for the party was a house located in Elm Avenue, Beeston. The house belonged to Joan West, who was also ‘mine host’ for the evening. That night, the drummer Charlie Watts, took the phone call informing them that their single, All Over Now, had reached No. 1 in the US chart.


Elm Avenue, Beeston was the scene of a party in the early 1960s attended by the Rolling Stones- Photo Credit: Picture the Past.

Joan who reported to the Nottingham Post in 2003 about the party commented that “”Charlie and Bill were fabulous, two of the most down-to-earth lads. Brian Jones was also there, but he was a bit rude. We ignored him. But kids got in the garden and shinned up the drainpipe to get at the Stones,” she said. At one point, they all fetched their guitars from the tour bus, sat in a circle in my lounge and began singing. I wish I had had a recorder. But no one got drunk, there wasn’t enough beer!”

Imagine the scene on Elm Avenue when the Stones soon got into the ‘swing of the party’. News of the bands presence soon spread and local fans were quickly descending on the house. The local police soon got wind of the Stones attendance and had to close Elm Avenue. The party was apparently a “very good one” and lasted into the early hours of the morning.

Years later the Stones can still remember the night. Wyman remembered the party, telling EG in 2002: “I met a girl there who was like a girlfriend on and off for two or three years.” Wyman himself has Nottingham connections, being a child evacuee during the Second World War. He was evacuated to Mansfield Woodhouse in Nottinghamshire where he spent some time there. He later commented that he still has a soft spot for the area.

So next time you walk down Elm Avenue remember that the road is not just another piece of suburban Beeston. But it was once a venue for a party to the Rolling Stones.


Elm Avenue, Beeson, c 2010, not just another piece of suburban Beeston- Photo Credit: Geograph.

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