59. External Events

General Election 1950

On 23 February 1950, grandad noted that there was a general election which Labour won. It was the first election to take place after a full term of a Labour government. It was also the first election after the abolition of plural voting. This had allowed people to vote both where they lived and where they had a university affiliation or where they owned property. The election also abolished constituencies representing particular universities. Labour won an overall majority. But, this majority reduced dramatically from 146 to 5. Turnout was 83.9%. This was the highest recorded under universal suffrage. In Broxtowe, the Labour Party candidate and sitting MP, Seymour Cocks, won with a majority of more than 22,000.

Clement Atlee continued as Prime Minister after the election in 1950 but with a much-reduced majority © Winterbergen and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Newspaper cutting of Kirkby carnival 1951 showing MP Seymour Cocks (highlighted). He was re-elected in both 1950 and 1951

General Election 1951

A further general election took place on 25 October 1951. Labour hoped to increase their majority. However, both mum and grandad noted that the Conservatives won an overall majority of 17 seats. This was despite Labour winning the popular vote and getting its highest ever total vote. One factor was winning some seats unopposed in Northern Ireland. As a result of the Conservative victory, Winston Churchill returned as Prime Minister. Locally, Seymour Cocks achieved a very similar result to 1950. He got more than 35,000 votes. This was almost three quarters of the vote share (73%). He held a majority of more than 22,000.

Winston Churchill returned as Prime Minister in 1951 following the Conservative victory in the general election – photo by Levan Ramishvili that is in the public domain

Broxtowe By-Election 1953

In September 1953, the death of Seymour Cocks led to a by-election in Broxtowe. William Warbey won for Labour with 74% of the vote. He won a majority of almost 18,000. Neither diary mentioned the by-election.

Young Conservatives

From 1950 to 1952, mum attended a number of Young Conservatives’ activities with Barbara Coupe. These events were largely social, e.g. scavenger hunt, beetle drive, dance, party and a tennis tournament.

Miners’ Demonstrations

From 1949, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) held an annual demonstration at the end of June. These were later referred to as galas. In 1953, grandad noted that this took place in Kirkby. More than 20,000 people attended. This was the only time this event took place in Kirkby. The first four demonstrations (1949-1952) took place at Basford Miners Welfare, near to Babbington Colliery. From 1954 onwards, they took place at Berry Hill, Mansfield.

Kirkby Colliery section of the parade assembles accompanied by Kirkby Colliery Welfare Band – Image licenced for re-use from Inspire
James Callaghan heading to rally at Berry Hill Park, late 1950s – Image licenced for re-use from

Festival of Britain

In May 1951, both grandad and mum noted the opening of the Festival of Britain. Grandad noted that it had been opened by the King. The festival was the initiative of the Labour minister, Herbert Morrison. It celebrated the centenary of the Great Exhibition of 1851. However, it was not another World Fair. Rather, it focused solely on Britain and its achievements. There was a centrepiece in London but also events throughout the country. It led to a new contemporary style of arts, crafts and designs which espoused strong primary colours.

Mum, Grandma and Grandad Visit the Festival

Mum, grandma and grandad visited the Festival, as part of an organised trip from Kirkby, on 6 June 1951 (see Chapter 52). They were far from impressed! Mum noted “FB NB BP VG” which I take to mean that she considered the Festival of Britain “not bad” but she liked Battersea Park better! I am assuming she was distinguishing between the South Bank centrepiece and the Festival Pleasure Gardens in Battersea Park.

Not as Good as the British Empire Exhibition

According to grandad, he and grandma did not think it “came up to Wembley of 1924-25”. Grandad appears to have been referring to the British Empire Exhibition. This ran from April 1924 to October 1925. I assume that grandma and grandad went on 23 July 1924. Grandad’s diary simply read “went to Wembley”. Alan Cirket’s book The Cirket Family of Elstow” notes that his mother and father visited the exhibition and a distant cousin came over from Australia for it.

Flyer giving details of excursion to Festival of Britain
Mum’s commemorative Festival of Britain crown
Photo taken from trip to Festival of Britain June 1951
Sewing kit commemorating the Festival of Britain
Model Festival of Britain van
Festival of Britain bike brooch
Grandad thought that the Festival of Britain in London in 1951 had not been up to the standard of the British Empire Exhibition in 1924 which he also attended – from that exhibition front cover of official guide
Envelope containing 24 photographic postcards from British Empire Exhibition
Sample postcard showing the boating lake

Kirkby Celebrates the Festival of Britain

Kirkby also celebrated The Festival of Britain.

The Market Hall Was Renamed the Festival Hall

In September 1950, mum noted that the Old Market Hall in Kirkby had reopened as the Festival Hall. The re-opening ceremony was on 30 September 1950 and I have a copy of the souvenir programme, provided to me by Trevor Lee. In addition to the programme, it provides some historical notes. The hall was turned into a leisure centre although it retains the Festival Hall name. There are currently major plans to re-develop the site and build a new leisure centre. This is expected to open in August 2022. There is a photograph of the building in the book “Kirkby & District: A Second Selection” by Frank Ashley, Sylvia Sinfield and Gerald Lee (p97). Mark Ashfield devotes a chapter to this in his book “Christmas Pigs and a Summer Donkey”. The chapter is called “More than Just a Market” (pp36-42).

Copy of the front cover of the souvenir programme for the re-opening of the Festival Hall in September 1950. This was kindly given to me by Trevor Lee.
Programme for the re-opening of the Festival Hall in September 1950. This was kindly given to me by Trevor Lee.

Events at the Festival Hall

During this period and subsequently, mum and her family and friends attended multiple events at the Festival Hall including remembrance services, carol services, musical concerts and dances (see Chapters 51, 52, 54, 56 and 57).

Soon after the name change, they sometimes lapsed back into its old name, Market Hall. For example, on Christmas Eve 1950, both mum and grandad referred to a carol service held here. Interestingly, grandad used the new name and mum the old.

In 1951, the Kirkby carnival was linked to the Festival of Britain (see Chapter 52). In July 1951, mum went to the Festival Hall to see the carnival queen (Bernice Wright) crowned. She went with her friend, Barbara Coupe, and with Barbara’s mother.

Two weeks later, grandma, grandad and mum went to an exhibition at the Festival Hall. Grandad considered it very good. Mum commented that it was “better than London compared with the size of Kirkby”. There are photos of this in the book “Kirkby & District in Old Photographs” by Frank Ashley, Sylvia Sinfield and Gerald Lee (p16).

Also, there is  a photo of a street party to coincide with the Festival of Britain on p25 and the front cover. There is a related photo in their second book “Kirkby & District: A Second Selection” (p117).

Kirkby Festival Hall in 1963: This photo is from a postcard by Kirkby and District Conservation Society which was kindly provided by Trevor Lee. It also appears in Gerald Lee’s book “Kirkby-in-Ashfield: Yesterday Remembered” (p62) and in Mark Ashfield’s book “Ferrets, a Tin Whistle and Haircuts at Home” (p20)

Royal Events

Mum had a keen interest in the royal family. At the back of her 1950 diary were some handwritten, biographical details of various royal figures.

Notes on the royal family in mum’s diary in 1950

The Queen Visits Mansfield in July 1950

In July 1950, mum noted that the queen “came to Mansfield”. This was our current queen’s mother. She formally opened Portland College.

Death of King George VI

On 6 February 1952, both mum and grandad noted that King George VI had died. Grandad wrote, “King George VI dies in his sleep early hours of the morning”. Mum wrote, “THE KING DIED IN HIS SLEEP DURING THE NIGHT. Coronary thrombosis, a clot of blood preventing blood from entering heart”. Although the king had suffered from illness, including lung cancer, his sudden death shocked the nation. At the time of his death, the future Queen Elizabeth, was on a commonwealth tour in Kenya.

News cutting showing Princess Elizabeth on tour in Kenya when she received news of her father’s death
Souvenir timetable for the funeral of King George VI

Princess Elizabeth Becomes Queen

On 8 February 1952, both mum and grandad noted that Princess Elizabeth had been proclaimed as Queen Elizabeth II.

Funeral of King George VI

On the 15th, they both noted watching the king’s funeral on TV (see Chapter 53). Mum noted that Ken and Pearl Hodges came to watch it at their house. There were also a number of religious services in Kirkby to commemorate King George VI’s funeral (see Chapter 54).

Death of Queen Mary

In March 1953, grandad noted that Queen Mary, the queen’s grandmother, had died and that she had been buried at Windsor.

Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II

Of course, the biggest royal event during this period was the coronation on 2 June 1953 and it was the first British coronation to be fully televised (see Chapter 53). Grandad’s diary for the year was specially labelled to reflect that 1953 was the coronation year.

Grandad’s diary for 1953 noting that it was the year of the coronation
Cadbury’s commemorative tin for the coronation

Mum Did Not Explicitly Mention the Coronation on the Day

Somewhat surprisingly, mum does not mention the coronation explicitly at all on the day. Among her papers, there were two newspapers commemorating the coronation, the Daily Telegraph from 2 June 1953 and the Daily Mirror from 3 June 1953. She did note that some of her friends came for the day, including dad, Margaret Varnam, Ken Roome, Betty Longden and Joan Storer. However, although they watched TV all morning and afternoon, they went to the cinema in the evening to see Fernando Lamas in “The Merry Widow”. Mum had been involved in various activities in the run up to the Coronation. On Saturday 30 May, mum was part of a group who went on a Fordham and Burton trip to London (see Chapter 52). They joined the crowds outside Buckingham Palace that day. There were also special church services related to the coronation (see Chapter 54).

Crowds outside Buckingham Palace ahead of the coronation
Collection of coins mum had from 1953 presumably related to the coronation. These include five crowns in presentation boxes. A crown was worth five shillings which would be 25p today not taking into account inflation. As far as I recall, crowns were not in common usage although half crowns were. In addition, there is a set of coins including a farthing (¼d), a halfpenny (½d), a penny (1d), a threepenny piece (3d), a sixpence (6d), an English shilling (with three lions) (1/-), a Scottish shilling (with one lion) (1/-), two shillings or a florin (2/-) and half a crown (2/6). Farthings were withdrawn in 1960, the year I was born.

The Queen’s Commonwealth Tour – 1954

On other royal matters, in May 1954, mum noted that the queen had returned home from a Commonwealth tour. The tour had lasted six months and covered 13 countries. 

The queen on her 1954 Commonwealth tour – in Gisborne, New Zealand © Archives New Zealand and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Sporting Events

Mum also noted some sporting events.

Boat Races in 1951 and 1952

For example, in April 1951, she noted that Cambridge won the boat race. She noted Oxford narrowly winning “by 1 canvas (4-5 ft)” in March 1952.

Notts County

In her 1950 diary, mum noted Notts County’s fixtures and results. It appears that she wrote all the fixtures in first and then added results later. This may explain why there are some fixtures with no apparent score, presumably where these were rescheduled.

I think people in Kirkby and the surrounding area generally supported Notts County. In March 1914, several family members went to see Notts County play Hull (see Chapter 2) but, on Christmas Day 1923, grandad appears to have attended a Nottingham Forest game (see Chapter 28). Despite being recognised as the world’s oldest football club, founded in 1862 and one of the 12 founder members of the football league in 1888, Notts County were relegated from the football league at the end of 2018-19. At the time of writing, they had just failed to fulfil an FA Cup fixture with Kings Lynn because of COVID-19 in their squad. The other 11 founding members of the football league were Accrington, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Burnley, Derby County, Everton, Preston North End, Stoke, West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Notts County Played Three Times in Four Days

At Easter in 1950, it appears that they played three times in four days! Notts County played away at Port Vale on Good Friday (and won 3-1) before playing Torquay at home the next day (a game they drew 1-1). Their third game was on Easter Monday and was the return fixture against Port Vale (which they lost 3-1).

Season 1949-50

During that season, Notts County finished first in Division III South and Nottingham Forest finished fourth. Division III South was a regional league that operated from 1921 to 1958. There was also a Division III North. Notts County played in Division III South in 1930/31 and from 1935 to 1950. They were relegated from the Second Division in 1958 but by then there was a unified Division III.

Perhaps of interest in the 1949/50 season is that Portsmouth were league champions and Manchester City were relegated from Division 1. Tottenham were champions of Division 2 and were promoted with Sheffield Wednesday. In Division 3 South, Northampton Town and Southend United finished second and third respectively. The teams that Notts County played over Easter, Torquay and Port Vale, finished fifth and 13th respectively. Norwich City were in Division III South that year and finished 11th.

Programme for one of Notts County’s home games in 1950. On Easter Saturday, 8 April 1950, they played Torquay United and drew 1-1. This game was sandwiched between games with Port Vale home and away on Good Friday and Easter Monday.
Another programme for one of Notts County’s home games in 1950. Two weeks later, on 22 April 1950, Notts County played Nottingham Forest and won 2-0.
League table for Division 3 South as of the Forest game. At that point, Notts County had four games left to play.

1951 FA Cup Final

In April 1951, mum noted that the FA Cup Final was on TV and that Newcastle United beat Blackpool 2-0.

Programme front cover from 1951 F A Cup Final
The afternoon’s programme and the two teams’ routes to the final
The teams
 Photograph of the Newcastle United team

Test Cricket in 1951

In June 1951, mum noted watching the test match on TV. This was the first test between England and South Africa at Trent Bridge which South Africa won by 71 runs.  Mum noted this in her diary entry for 12 June. Later that month, mum also watched the second test at Lord’s. On the 23rd, she noted that England had won by 10 wickets.

She resumed her interest in August 1951 for the fifth test at the Oval with England having won the third at Old Trafford and drawn the fourth at Headingley. England won the game by four wickets and hence the series. Mum noted, “we (England) won test match (rubber) against South Africa”. I don’t know why mum was particularly interested in this series. Maybe some of her friends were interested or perhaps the level of TV coverage was novel. Or perhaps the first Test being in Nottingham caught her attention.

Front cover of the souvenir programme of the South African cricket tour of 1951
Details of tour fixtures from the souvenir programme of the South African cricket tour of 1951
Player’s career records of the South African team from the souvenir programme of their cricket tour of 1951

Local Cricket

She also watched some local cricket, including on the park with Barbara Coupe in July 1951. She also watched dad play cricket for the Norwich Union in July 1954 and she watched some chapel teams playing at Annesley Welfare see box) in August 1954.

Annesley Welfare was a miners’ institute that operated as a charity and was a central part of community life. It closed in 2009 and it was badly damaged by fire in 2016. As of 2019, it was due to be replaced with 44 houses. I understand from Trevor Lee that it was demolished in 2019.
Annesley Welfare prior to demolition in 2019. I am grateful to Trevor Lee for these photos

Cross-Channel Swimming Race

On 16 August 1951, mum noted that “18 people swam channel. Egyptian won”. It appears that this was a race organised by the Daily Mail to coincide with the Festival of Britain. The name of the Egyptian who won it was Mareeh Hassan Hamad and he posted a time of 12 hours 12 minutes.

News cutting from the 1951 cross-Channel swimming race

Other Swimming on TV

Mum watched some other swimming on TV in February 1952 (see Chapter 53).

Ice Hockey

In January 1954, mum went to an ice hockey match in Nottingham with dad, Ken Roome and Margaret Varnam (for some details of the ice stadium see Chapter 52). She noted that Nottingham Panthers beat the Brighton Tigers 9-6. Presumably, this was still the 1953/54 season when the Panthers played in and won the English League title. The next year, the English and Scottish leagues merged to form a British League which operated until 1960 when the league and the Panthers disbanded. The team only then re-formed in 1980.

I have not been to many ice hockey matches but I did go to see both Durham Wasps and Whitley Bay Warriors when we lived in the North East in the late eighties. Durham Wasps operated from 1947 to 1996 and they were most popular from 1982 to 1992. I also recall once going to see ice hockey in Bern on a visit to Switzerland and from what I recall there was a huge crowd.

Front cover from an ice hockey programme for one of the reverse fixtures between Nottingham Panthers and Brighton Tigers in 1956
Fixtures, standings and performance record for Brighton Tigers players. It is worth noting that there were only five teams in the league in 1956
Lorne Smith who played for Nottingham Panthers
Team line-ups for match in 1956 from an ice hockey programme for one of the reverse fixtures between Nottingham Panthers and Brighton Tigers in 1956
Programme for ice hockey match between Nottingham Panthers and Wembley in April 1955
Programme for ice hockey match between Nottingham Panthers and USSR in December 1958. I found a news report of this match which the Panthers won 4-3.
Lapel badge for Nottingham Panthers

Harrow and Wealdstone Train Crash

In October 1952, both mum and grandad recorded the railway accident that happened at Harrow and Wealdstone[1] station on the 8th. Grandad spelled this Wheeldon and noted that the accident happened on Wednesday 7th. But, Wednesday was the 8th that year.. Mum noted that the station was “near Euston” and that the accident involved three trains and killed 105 people. Grandad noted that over 100 people had been killed.

According to official reports, the total number killed was 112 and the number injured was 340, making it the worst peacetime rail crash in the United Kingdom. The worst ever rail accident in the UK occurred at Quintinshill in 1915. The Harrow and Wealdstone crash occurred when an overnight express train from Perth crashed into the back of a local passenger train that was standing at the station. The wreckage blocked adjacent lines and was hit by a northbound express train. It appears that the express train from Perth passed through a caution and two danger signals but the reason for this was not established as both the driver and fireman of the train were killed. The accident led to a number of safety changes.

The Harrow and Wealdstone rail disaster occurred in October 1952 © 70023venus2009 and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Plaque commemorating the Harrow and Wealdstone rail disaster © Mintaka3Net and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Local Road Accidents

In March 1950, mum recorded two local bus crashes. On the 6th, there was a crash near Edwinstowe and 30 people were injured. The next day, there was a crash near Mansfield reservoir with one boy killed and two seriously injured. In February 1952, grandad noted that there had been an accident at four roads end (see Chapter 73) and a man had been knocked off his bike.

Incidents at Home

On 3 May 1950, mum noted that her friend Shirley Sadler had had a chimney fire. In September 1950, mum noted that they had had to have supper by candlelight as the “lights failed”. In January 1951, they had a pipe burst at the back of the boiler and, the next day, a plumber came to fix it.

John Turner and the Shop Window

In March 1952, a man deliberately put his foot through grandad’s shop’s plate glass window. Both mum and grandad recorded this incident. Grandad noted that the man had done this to be arrested and that he had had to go to the police station to make a statement. In April, grandad had to attend court about this matter but he was not called as a witness. The man, John Turner, was initially remanded in custody for three weeks for a medical examination but he was later sent to prison for six months (see Chapter 48).

News cuttings concerning a man who broke the window at grandad’s shop in March 1952

Lunar Eclipse

In April 1950, mum noted a lunar eclipse saying that “moon was covered by shadow”.

1952 Floods

In August 1952, grandad noted “big floods at Lynmouth in Devon”. According to reports at the time, more than 9 inches of rain fell in 24 hours resulting in 34 deaths.

1953 Floods

These floods were overshadowed in January/February 1953 when there were terrible storms and flooding on the East coast. Mum noted that “all the East coast was flooded from Mablethorpe to Kent. Over 200 people drowned. 1/6th Holland flooded – over 2,000 people drowned. Cause was high tide and NE gale”. Grandad noted, “worst storm for centuries in the North Sea. Most of the sea front from Saltfleet to the Thames was flooded… In Holland, the floods were worse”.

There was serious flooding along the East coast in 1953 © Harwich & Dovercourt and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Grandad also noted how family and friends had been affected, “Cyril & Minnie had the water to front & back door. Mr Smith who left Elstow and went to Trusthorpe had to leave everything”. There is a photo in one of mum’s albums labelled “Floods at Chapel 1953”. Initially, I thought this referred to flooding at Bourne chapel! But, clearly that is not the case from the photo. Presumably, this refers to Chapel St Leonards and to these floods.

Mum’s photo of flooding at Chapel St Leonards

New Railway to Calverton Colliery

Grandad sometimes noted local developments. In October 1950, he cycled to 7 mile house to see the new railway line being built to Calverton Colliery and he went there again in March 1951 (see Chapter 51).

View of Calverton colliery in 1989 with token inset © Phil Richards and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Air Display at Hucknall

In May 1951, both mum and grandad went to see an air display at Hucknall (see Chapter 51).

Developments in Station Street

In July 1951, grandad noted that “workmen dug a trench for bike under the pavement at the front of the shops in Station St”.

Holme Moss TV Transmitter

In October 1951, mum noted that Holme Moss TV station opened.

Aerial view of the Holme Moss transmitter

Opening Up Welbeck Street

One development of particular interest was the opening up of Welbeck Street (see Chapter 51). In December 1950, grandad received a letter from Kirkby Urban District Council saying that this would happen. However, it was not until March 1952 that grandad noted that “council men pulled up Mrs Walton’s edge the first step in opening the road”. The road finally opened in June 1952. In January 1953, tarmac was applied.

Photo of Welbeck Street showing the closed portion

Jury Service

In August 1951, grandad was called, by the police, to go for an inquest on the 30th but, as he was busy with repairs, they got someone else. He did go as a juror for an inquest in September 1951. This was held at the council offices and related to the death of a young man from Sutton, aged 19, who had been killed at Summit colliery.

Deaths at Summit Colliery

I am not sure if I was naive but I was shocked that there were more than 100 deaths at Summit colliery between 1896 and 1969. I think I was aware that major disasters could and had occurred and also of the long-term health consequences of mining but I was definitely not aware of the number of men killed singly in accidents. I got details of these deaths from two lists, one on the Healey Hero website, which covers the period from 1924 to 1966, and one from Kirkby Living Memory Facebook Group which covers the earlier period.

By far and away, the commonest cause of deaths was roof falls (63 of 113, 56%). The second major cause was being crushed by tubs or wagons which accounted for a further 25 deaths. Other causes of deaths included falls (4), septicaemia following an injury (4), caught in machinery (2), hit by a haulage rope (2), knocked down or kicked by horse (2), struck by winch handle (2), asphyxiation by fumes (1), caught in a coal cutter (1), crushed by cage (1), injured lifting tub (1), knocked down by a lorry (1), pneumonia following a chest injury (1), run over by a loco on the surface (1), shotfiring accident (1) and stomach cancer due to an accident (1).

Terence Ellis

Based on the list of deaths at Summit colliery, it appears that the name of the young man killed, whose inquest grandad was involved in, was Terence Ellis. He died when the roof fell in. An article about the inquest in the Nottingham Evening Post noted that the jury returned a verdict of accidental death. Terence Ellis had only been working at the colliery for six months when the accident happened on 14 September 1951. Harold Richardson, who had been working with Ellis to raise the roof, described what happened.  During the morning, he had been working in the same spot and he thought the roof seemed safe. He was about seven feet from Ellis when the roof fell in. Richardson noted that there had been no warning. The news article noted that, in the previous two months, there had been three fatal and two serious accidents at Summit.

Left – news article concerning the death of Terence Ellis at Summit Colliery from the Nottingham Evening Post of 18 September 1951 obtained through paid subscription to Find My Past 
 Above – extract from grandad’s diary for 18 September 1951

Terence Ellis lived at 37 Parliament Street, Sutton. From FreeBMD, it appears he may have been born in Q1 1932 in Mansfield with a mother’s maiden name of Smith. From the 1939 register, his family was living at 37 Parliament Street. His parents were Walter (b1903), a general labourer, and Clara (b1903). He appears to have had a brother or sister but their record is closed on the basis that they may still be living.  Again, from FreeBMD, Walter Ellis married Clara Smith in Q1 1927. It seems likely that the closed record relates to an older brother called either Trevor or Kenneth.