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The unique thoughts of our Denis

PLANS are currently in hand to regenerate Hucknall — but the town faced an even greater need for such action a century ago.

At that time, Hucknall was looked upon as a ‘distressed area’ and most people kept it at arm’s length.

In an ‘I Remember’ article he wrote 50 years ago, Dispatch founder Henry Morley said the town had scarcely recovered from a miners’ strike of 1893.

He wrote: “Men assembling at the pit had to trek homeward without any prospect of work.

“Hucknall’s streets were not even Tarmacadamed and when snow fell, it had to wait for a thaw. Lamps were of a single-burner gas type.

“When residents entered their homes from the muddy streets, they cleaned their boots on a scraper inserted in the wall near the door.

“Unless roots were firmly grounded, many workers sought fresh fields and pastures new and some went into the South Yorkshire coalfield.”

What saved Hucknall from impending oblivion was a remarkable initiative by a group of businessmen who were based in the town.

“A new spirit was born,” Mr Morley wrote. Instead of wringing their hands in anguish, the traders sought a way out of the encircling gloom.”

A development committee was formed with the aim of attracting new industries to Hucknall.

The Duke of Portland gave the scheme his blessing by providing land in the Wigwam area as a potential site. Two new factories were built, one for a tent business and the other for a hosiery manufacturer.

Thousands of envelopes were printed with a description of Hucknall on the back and these were used not only by tradespeople but also by the general public to send letters.

The availability of labour and of land to set up new businesses was made widely known.

As a special stimulus for investment, a newspaper published photos of girls catching trains home at the end of a day’s work in the town.

“The development committee was unflagging in its zeal,” Mr Morley’s article continued.

“Its ambition was rewarded with a major breakthrough when George Spencer came to Hucknall from Lutterworth, Leicestershire. He chose a site near the Central railway station on Watnall Road for his Vedonis hosiery factory to employ 300 girls.”

This proved the trigger for other ventures. Turners furniture factory was opened and underwear manufacturers Richards also began operating in Hucknall.

The new-found confidence in Hucknall led to millions of pounds being spent on modernisation of the town’s coalmines.

Hucknall High Street experienced a metamorphosis with the influx of multiple retailers and none of its shops remained unoccupied.

“In this way, Hucknall has recovered fronm the depression,” wrote Mr Morley, who was the only surviving member of the development committee when he wrote the article.

The birth of the Dispatch proved to be part of Hucknall’s renaissance because it was during 1903 when Mr Morley launched the paper..

DENIS ROBINSON,

Former Dispatch

chief reporter.

 

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