Young visionary Sidney Holgate prophesy for ‘bypass’

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Hucknall has its fair share of notables from Byron to Coates but one man was a visionary ahead of his time.

Dr Sidney Holgate, son of Henry and Annie, who had a town school named in her memory when it opened in 1950 because of her ‘valuable public work as a member of the County Education Committee, went on to leave his own legacy behind.

Born in 1918, Sidney first made a mark in the town when aged just 17, he entered a Hucknall Dispatch essay competition.

The challenge was to write about the town and what their future vision for Hucknall was.

A young Sidney declared that ‘our slums are being cleared at a very satisfactory rate and homes are springing up everywhere’.

But it was Sidney’s criticism of the road through the town which he described as ‘a fly in the ointment’ for Hucknall that saw an inspirational suggestion of what could be comparable to today’s plans for the inner relief road which, after being talked about for decades, is due to come to fruition.

“We came across the essay Sidney had written for the Dispatch recently and thought it was interesting after reading all the plans for the town centre development,” said Sidney’s cousin John Willett. “His proposals and prophecies in 1935 now appear to becoming a reality.

“How extraordinary that what he saw as an improvement for the town all those years ago are finally going to come to light.”

The essay declares that the young scholar would ‘build a by-pass road from Wighay Bridge down Annesley Road and across Titchfield and Albert streets, rejoining Portland Road near Bolsover Street’.

He also included the straightening out of Watnall Road, which still causes problems today.

Trees ‘dotted among paths and fountains around Market Square’ was also an idea.

The writer was realistic about what the ‘economists would say’ to the ideas of an ‘idle dreamer’ but suggested ‘we revisit Hucknall in 50 years like Rip Van Winkle’.

Sidney Holgate went on to accomplish many things in life as an academic mathematician and Secretary to the Colleges at Durham University which he entered as an under-graduate in 1937 and served with only a year’s break, when he taught at Nottingham High School, until his retirement in 1980 and which he remained in close contact until his death.

A new conference and accommodation building at Grey College, where he served as first master, was named Holgate House when it opened in October 1995 serving as a fitting tribute to the legacy he left behind for future Durham students.

He was also awarded the CBE in 1981 which he left to Grey’s College where it is part of a display dedicated to him following his death on 17th May 2003, aged 84.