73. External Events – Late 1950s

Queen’s Speech Televised

Christmas 1957 saw the Queen’s Christmas speech televised for the first time and grandad noted this.

2013 first day cover commemorating the Queen’s first televised broadcast in 1957

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh Visited Nottingham

Locally, in July 1955, grandad commented that the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh visited the Royal Show in Nottingham on the 6th.

Mum and Dad saw the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in Guernsey

In July 1957, while mum and dad were in Guernsey on holiday, they saw the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh who were also visiting Guernsey (see Chapter 66).

General Elections

There were two general elections during this period, in 1955 and in 1959.

Anthony Eden Prime Minister after 1955 Election

The 1955 election resulted in a Conservative government with a majority of 60 seats under the leadership of Anthony Eden, following the retirement of Winston Churchill.

Portrait of Anthony Eden – image licenced for re-use from Alamy

William Warbey Becomes MP for Ashfield

Locally, there was a new Ashfield constituency which William Warbey won for Labour with 72% of the vote. He had first won a by-election for Broxtowe in 1953 following the death of the sitting MP, Seymour Cocks – see Chapter 59.

Mum noted that there was a general election and it looks like she intended to record the national result but she did not. Grandad also noted that there was a general election and that, locally, there was a new Ashfield “Division” as Broxtowe was “finished”. He noted that W N Warbey received 32,905 votes for Labour while Major A S Plane for the Conservatives received 12,836 meaning Labour won by 20,609, although the winning margin was actually 20,069. Grandad also noted that the “Conservatives won throughout the country”.

Harold Macmillan Won the 1959 Election

The 1959 election again resulted in a Conservative government with an increased majority of 100 seats under the leadership of Harold Macmillan.

 Political map of the UK in 1959 © Mirrorme22 and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Portrait of Harold Macmillan licenced for re-use from Alamy

William Warbey was Re-elected in Ashfield

Locally, William Warbey was re-elected to represent Ashfield with a slightly increased majority of 20,742. Grandad noted that he and grandma went in the car to vote. Mum noted that she went to vote as dad was going to work. Grandad recorded that Warbey for Labour received 35,413 votes (35,432 according to Wikipedia) and that Sandys, who was the grandson of Winston Churchill, received 14,696 (14,690 according to Wikipedia) for the Conservatives. He also noted nationally that the Conservatives won 365 seats, Labour 258, Liberal 6 and other 1. Mum simply noted that it “looks like a Conservative Government”.

Julian Sandys

Julian Sandys was the son of Diana Spencer-Churchill, Winston Churchill’s eldest daughter, and Edwin Sandys, a Conservative politician. He was educated at Eton and was a lawyer. He died in 1997 at the age of 60.

Local Elections

Grandad also sometimes noted local election results. For example, in May 1955, there was an election for Kirkby Urban and District Council East Ward. He noted that only Labour were elected.


Train Drivers’ Strike

In May 1955, grandad noted that engine drivers and foremen came out on strike. Apparently, this was a strike by the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF). It lasted until 14 June. It resulted in a State of Emergency being declared at the end of May. 

During the 1955 rail strike, people sought alternative means of transport including lorry (above), boat and motor coach (below).
ASLEF badge from the 1955 strike

Bus Strike

In July 1957, grandad noted that there was a bus strike across “the Midlands etc.” The practical effect of this, which concerned him, was that dad had to go to work in Nottingham on the train. The violence that occurred filled newspaper and television coverage of the strike. The BBC reported that those on strike directed violence against drivers and vehicles breaking the strike.

The strike started on Saturday 20 July as noted by grandad. It affected around 100,000 “busmen”. They were asking for a £1 per week pay rise. By 23 July, employers were only offering an additional three shillings a week. Car-pooling, use of trains and use of private or work-based coaches all minimised the effects of the strike.

 News article illustrating the employers’ point of view ahead of a proposed provincial bus strike

Apparently, by 27 July, an Industrial Disputes Tribunal had proposed a rise of eleven shillings per week. This was accepted by the employers. Presumably, this was then accepted by the unions and workers as the strike ended on the 28th.

Then, on the 29th, grandad noted that the bus strike had ended at midnight on Sunday (28th) and that “buses [were] running today”.

Printers’ Strike

In June 1959, grandad bemoaned the absence of the Notts Free Press because of a printers’ strike. Then, on 3 July, he noted that a four-page Free Press was produced. He noted that the strike ended on 1 August and, by the 14th, the Free Press was back to its normal size.

Apparently, this strike was organised by the Graphical, Paper and Media Union (GPMU). This union is now part of Unite the Union). The strike lasted six weeks and achieved a forty hour working week for GPMU members.

Sutton Coldfield Rail Accident

In January 1955, grandad noted that a railway accident had happened at Sutton Coldfield station. This occurred when an express passenger train from York to Bristol derailed because it was going too fast round a curve. A total of 17 people were killed and  a further 25 were injured.

Sutton Coldfield rail crash January 1955 image licenced for re-use from Alamy
Memorial  at Sutton Coldfield railway station to the 17 people who were killed in the rail crash of 23 January 1955 – this photograph by Voice of Clam is in the public domain

Lewisham Rail Accident

In December 1957, grandad noted that there had been a big railway accident at Lewisham, near London. Also, he noted that 90 people had been killed.

Apparently, two trains crashed in dense fog. A steam train to Ramsgate crashed into an electric train to Hayes that had stopped at a signal. In addition to the people killed, a further 173 were injured. The crash occurred under a bridge that was completely destroyed. The lines only reopened after a week. It took a further month to rebuild the bridge. Apparently, an Automatic Warning System would have prevented the crash.

Lewisham rail crash 1957 showing the over-rail bridge being removed © Ben Brooksbank and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Memorial plaque for the Lewisham rail crash © Ethan Doyle White and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Suez Crisis

The Suez Crisis occurred, in July 1956, after Egypt nationalised the Suez canal. Israel, the UK and France invaded Egypt to re-establish Western control of the canal and to remove Nasser from power. However, the canal closed from October 1956 to March 1957 and Nasser remained in power. The invaders withdrew under pressure from the United States, the Soviet Union and the United Nations. The crisis led to the resignation of the British Prime Minister, Anthony Eden.

Petrol Rationing

In December 1956, grandad noted that petrol rationing began “because of the blocking of the Suez Canal by Colonel Nasser of Egypt”. Grandad’s main concern was that this meant they were restricted to six gallons of petrol per month. In January 1957, grandad noted buying his first two gallons of rationed petrol. Petrol rationing continued until May 1957, so was in force for five months.

Queuing for petrol at the time of the Suez crisis – image licenced for re-use from Alamy
Petrol ration vouchers from the Suez crisis

Coal and Coke Rationing

In June 1958, grandad noted that coal and coke rationing would end in July. On 14 July, he noted that it had. This brought to an end 19 years of household coal rationing.

The M1 Opens

In November 1959, grandad noted that Mr Marples, the Minister of Transport, opened Britain’s first motorway between London and Birmingham. Although parts of what is now the M6 round Preston opened in 1958, the M1 was the first full-length motorway and it was part of this that opened at this time.

The Minister of Transport, Ernest Marples, uses a police radio telephone to order the barriers to be removed on the new M1 – image licenced for re-use from Alamy

Low Moor Road Caves In

In September 1957, grandad noted that Low Moor Road “caved in” when they laid a new sewer.

Earlier Pipe Renewal

In the book “Kirkby & District: A Second Selection” by Frank Ashley, Sylvia Sinfield and Gerald Lee (p93), there is a photograph of pipe renewal on the corner of Portland Street and Lowmoor Road but this is earlier, in 1954/55. 

Midland Buses Were Diverted

As a result of this cave in, Midland General Buses and all cars had to come along Welbeck Street, where grandma and grandad lived, because Low Moor Road was closed.

What Caused the Subsidence?

Grandad did not say exactly what the cause of the subsidence was. Was it only the laying of the sewer or was it linked to subsidence related to mining which affected the whole area?

Midland Buses Stop Running Along Welbeck Street

In February 1958, he noted that Midland General Buses stopped running along Welbeck Street. I am not sure if this still related to the subsidence on Low Moor Road or related to the bus service more generally, i.e. there used to be a bus route up Welbeck Street and this stopped. I bought a Midland General bus timetable for 1956 (see Chapter 63) but, while this gave a general idea of routes between towns, it did not really give details of routes within Kirkby. It did give details of three stops in Kirkby – Kirkby Cross, Banks Avenue and the Nag’s Head.

Traffic Lights at Four Roads End/Four Road Ends

In March 1959, grandad noted that workmen were fixing traffic lights at the four roads end. From the context, it appears that grandad meant “fixing” in terms of installing rather than repairing. It seems that they did the work between 16 and 19 March 1959.

Grandad’s diary entries related to fixing/installation of traffic lights at the four road(s) end(s) in March 1959. In one entry (above), he refers to the four roads end and in the other (below) to the four road ends

Other References to 4 Roads End

He had previously made reference to 4 roads end when an accident occurred there in February 1952 (see Chapter 59).

Grandad’s reference to an accident at 4 roads end on 2 February 1952

He Was Referring to Four Lane Ends

He was referring to the junction between Station Street, Low Moor Road, Diamond Avenue and Kingsway. I have come across one other reference to this junction being called four-road ends in an article about how Kirkby celebrated the end of World War I. However, it is mainly referred to as the Four Lane Ends although I can’t find anywhere where grandad called it that.

Other References to Four Lane Ends…

… in “Kirkby-in-Ashfield: Yesterday Remembered

For example, in his book “Kirkby-in-Ashfield: Yesterday Remembered”, Gerald Lee includes a photograph of The Four Lane Ends (p17) which is looking down Low Moor Road from Kingsway with the Nag’s Head on the left. The photograph above that on p17 is also in the same area, looking down Low Moor Road with the Regent cinema in the distance. That photograph must be after 1959 as it shows the traffic lights in place.

… in “Kirkby-in-Ashfield: Yesterday Remembered” and “Kirkby-in-Ashfield: An Interesting Township

In their book “Kirkby & District in Old Photographs”, Frank Ashley, Sylvia Sinfield and Gerald Lee have one photograph (p72) of Low Moor Road looking towards the Four Lane Ends and another (p90) which centres on the Nag’s Head and which they date as 1928 and which also appears in Bill Clay-Dove’s book “Kirkby-in-Ashfield: An Interesting Township”  (p42). This appears to be a cropped version of the photograph on a postcard I have (see below). However, that postcard is postmarked for 1925 so this photo may be earlier than they thought.

Postcard showing Four Lane Ends circa 1925

… in “Kirkby & District: A Second Selection”

In Frank Ashley, Sylvia Sinfield and Gerald Lee’s other book “Kirkby & District: A Second Selection”, there is also a photograph of the Four Lane Ends (p102) from the 1940s. This features the Regent cinema to the left and is looking down Kingsway/Cemetery Road. They note that this photograph precedes the installation of traffic lights at the junction. It is the same photo as the one below which was featured in an official guide from 1950.

Cutting from official guide of 1950. This shows a picture of Four Lane Ends and some historical background. Note that this explanation of the origin of the name “folly” is also included in the 1969 Kirkby-in-Ashfield Directory and in Bill Clay-Dove’s book “Kirkby-in-Ashfield: An Interesting Township” (p41). However, in the latter book, this is only one of two possible explanations, the other being that construction of an inn began but the folly was not having enough capital to finish it.

Barbara Moore/Anna Cherkasova

On Christmas Eve 1959, grandad noted that a woman reached London at 11.30pm having walked 373 miles from Edinburgh. She was known as Barbara Moore but she was a Russian engineer by the name of Anna Cherkasova. In 1939, she came to the UK and she married an art teacher, Harry Moore. She became known for her long-distance walks including from Edinburgh to London, from John O’Groats to Land’s End and from San Francisco to New York.

Barbara  Moore at Schiphol airport in 1961 © Wim van Rossem/ Anefo and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Space Race

Grandad was interested in the space race.

Thor-Able 1

In August 1958, grandad noted that the Americans had tried to send a rocket round the moon but that it had exploded soon after take-off. This was the maiden flight of Thor-Able I and this exploded at an altitude of 16 kilometres.

Thor-Able Rockets

The Thor-Able rocket was a two-stage rocket consisting of a Thor intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) and a Vanguard-derived Able second stage. Between 1958 and 1960, 16 Thor-Ables were launched, all from Cape Canaveral. Of these, there were six launch failures.

Thor-Able rocket at the Air Force Space & Missile Museum © Bubba73 and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Luna 2

In September 1959, grandad noted that a rocket fired by the Russians “hit the moon”. This was Luna 2 and was the first human spacecraft to reach the moon.

Russian stamp commemorating the launch of Luna 2 © Karen Horton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Civil Defence Corps

In September 1958, grandad noted that two men called to ask him to join the Civil Defence but he told them he was not fit enough for that. Somewhat mysteriously, he noted “they knew me but I did not know them”. Apparently, the government established the Civil Defence Corps in 1949 to respond to major national emergencies, such as a nuclear attack. By 1956, it had a membership of 330,000 but it was stood down in 1968.

Examples of Civil Defence Corps badges

A Lost Fountain Pen

In March 1959, grandma found a fountain pen in Welbeck Street and she reported it by phone to the police who sent a constable to collect it.

Would That Happen Now?

I find it hard to believe that would happen now! Out of interest, I had a look on the Suffolk Police website where they say they do not deal with the majority of reports of lost or found property. They are interested if you find drugs, firearms, laptops, cameras or mobile phones but you have to take them to a public enquiry office although they say not to handle dangerous items which would presumably apply to all drugs and firearms!

High/Low Value Items

They also deal with “high value items”. However, they  do not specify what high value items are but low value items include luggage, an empty purse, an empty wallet and an umbrella. So, I guess it might depend on the value of the fountain pen. These can be bought today for anything from less than £10 to more than £80 but I suspect a pen would fall into the not valuable category.

Recollection of a Lost Camera

Even if you could hand it in, I don’t think they would send a police officer to collect it. Different times! It does remind me that once, when we are on holiday in Barra, I lost my camera while walking. Before we left the island, Jo suggested checking at the local police station to see if it had been handed in. I thought it was a waste of time but, as we were walking past, we did and there it was! 

M S Hana Hedtoft

In January 1959, grandad noted that a Danish ship on her maiden voyage to Greenland had hit an iceberg and sank with the loss of more than 90 lives. This was the MS Hans Hedtoft which sank on its return journey from Greenland with the loss of 95 lives.

MS Hana Hedtoft from a news cutting

Heatwave June 1957

In June 1957, grandad noted that Cleethorpes had registered the hottest day for 40 years with 92oF (33.3oC) in the shade. Details of this and other UK heatwaves are available in a Guardian blog.

Two young women on the beach in Margate in June 1957 – image licenced for re-use from Alamy

Best Summer in 1959

In September and October 1959, grandad noted that the papers were reporting the best summer for 200 years.

Cold Weather 1956

In January and February 1956, they had the opposite situation. It was very cold and part of the seafront froze in Bridlington. In grandad’s front room at 9am, the temperature was 42oF (5.6oC).

Flooding September 1957

In September 1957, grandad recorded that there had been a very wet day and there had been flooding in the Trent and Erewash valleys.

Snowstorm February 1958

In February 1958, he noted that they experienced the worst snowstorm since 1947. Dad was unable to get into work.

Storm and Flooding July 1958

In July 1958, grandad noted a storm over most of England with flooding of Sheffield, including the Midland Station and streets in Mansfield and other parts of Nottinghamshire.

Thunderstorm June 1959

In June 1959, mum noted that there was a bad thunderstorm about 5pm. This resulted in them having no water from 2-9pm and no electricity from 10 to 5 until quarter to 8pm. I am not sure why the water was cut off before the storm. Presumably, the storm started earlier and the peak was about 5pm.

Earth Tremor February 1957

On 11 February 1957, both mum and grandad recorded an earth tremor about 4pm. Grandad noted that it affected the Midlands and was the worst tremor in England for 200 years. He also noted that they had felt it in Kirkby. Both mum and grandad noted that there was another tremor about midnight on the 12th.

According to official records,  the tremor measured 5.3 on the Richter scale or ML (local magnitude). Earthquake strength is no longer measured in this way but uses moment magnitude (MM). The tremor was felt all over the English Midlands and also in Hartlepool, Pwllheli, Norwich and Topsham (near Exeter). The epicentre was near Castle Donington, about 10 kilometres south-east of Derby.

There was widespread damage to chimneys and roofs in Derby and Nottingham. A few people were injured by falling masonry including one boy in Derby who suffered a fractured skull. Damage was caused to Blackbrook reservoir about 10 kilometres south of the epicentre. It was one of the UK’s most damaging earthquakes of the 20th century.

There was one substantial aftershock at 23.59 on 12 February (as recorded by mum and grandad) and this was felt from Hull to Gloucester and on the east coast of Norfolk but it was not recorded instrumentally.

Smash and Grab Raid Beeston

In September 1956, grandad noted that smash and grab raiders stole £39,100 for the weekly wages of around 6,000 Ericsson employees in Beeston. This would be worth around £680,000 today. Usually, the firm collected the funds from the bank in Beeston. Two senior cashiers, in a car, transported the funds, along with a driver and the firm’s security officer. One of the cashiers was armed. The car took a different route each week but it had to travel along Trafalgar Road as it approached the factory.

On 7 September 1956, the two cashiers, Joseph Hemmings and Archibald Allison, security officer, Jack Tideswell, and driver, Jack Eastham, were heading back with the money. As the car entered Trafalgar Road, a Land Rover containing three men rammed the Ericsson car making it stop. Two men from a waiting car joined one man from the Land Rover and attacked the Ericsson car with hammers and a crowbar. They stole three Gladstone bags containing the cash. The attackers fled in another vehicle which they later abandoned in West Bridgford.  The courts convicted George Barry and Francis Hornett for the robbery and three others for harbouring Barry after the robbery. Police failed to identify and arrest others involved. Most of the money was never recovered.

Burned to Death

In December 1958, grandad noted that someone was burned to death in a house fire in North Street, Mutton Hill (see Chapter 65).

Visit to Annesley Pit

In May 1955, mum noted that she visited Annesley pit with Arthur Cross.

Annesley Colliery in 2020 – image licensed for re-use from Shutterstock
Token from Annesley Colliery

Exhibition of Old Musical Instruments in Mansfield

In June 1955, grandad noted going to Mansfield by bus to see an exhibition of old musical instruments at the Art Gallery.

Bolsover Illuminations

In 1956, grandad noted going to the illuminations in Bolsover (see Chapter 66). Apparently, these ran from 1951 to 1957.

World Market at the Albert Hall

In November 1956, mum went to a World Market at the Albert Hall (see Chapter 54) in Nottingham for the International House.

New Street Lights

In May 1955, grandad noted that new electric lamp poles had been installed in the main streets of Kirkby, namely Low Moor Road, Kingsway, Diamond Avenue and Station Street.

Nag’s Head Alterations

In June 1955, grandad noted that alterations were being made to the Nag’s Head.

Nag’s Head in Kirkby circa 2015 © Dave Bevis and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

East Kirkby to Kirkby in Ashfield

One of the changes which most exercised grandad, and to some extent mum, was the change of name from East Kirkby to Kirkby in Ashfield. In July 1955, grandad noted that the Free Press reported that the Postmaster in Nottingham had agreed the name change for postal purposes. Later that year, in November, mum noted that East Kirkby had changed to Kirkby in Ashfield for address and telegrams but not for the telephone. Sue Broughton posted a Free Press cutting noting this on the Kirkby Living Memory Facebook Group.

East Kirkby was used as a postmark until 1955 when it was replaced by Kirkby in Ashfield. This example is from 1915. Other examples of East Kirkby postmarks are included in David Ottewell’s book “Kirkby-in-Ashfield and Annesley on Old Picture Postcards”, for example, inside the front cover and as picture 34.

The following year, in March 1956, grandad was notified that the location details for the telephone would change at some point. In the end, the change was made in August 1956 and the telephone disc was changed the same month.

Costs of Postage and Telephone Calls Increase

In October 1957, grandad noted that postage went up to 3d per ounce. Telephone rental increased so he was paying £14 per year for the shop and £12 for the house. In both cases, these charges were reduced by £2 as they were party lines.

A New Rating List

In January 1956, grandad visited the council offices to see the new rating list.

Selling Grave Space

In June 1957, he noted that he went to Kirkby Urban and District Council “accepting their offer of 18/- for grave space in Kingsway Cemetery”. I confess to not understanding what this was about! Perhaps, grandad had bought grave space he no longer wanted and the council were looking to buy back such space. Apparently, it is not that uncommon that someone may have grave space they no longer plan to use and look to sell it. But, it depends on precisely what they bought, e.g. the length of lease. Some councils have definitely considered buying back reserved grave plots as a way of dealing with graveyards becoming full. I don’t know specifically that something like this was done in Kirkby but presumably it was.

Civic Services

Bourne chapel held so-called civic services for council dignitaries. For example, the chairman of Kirkby Urban and District Council, W Arnold, held his civic service at Bourne in August 1959. This service was Rev Howells’ final service and the church was full to capacity.