Events and excursions, Winter 2022-23

Myles Thoroton Hildyard lecture - November 2022

A Great Electioneer and his Church Patronage

Dr Richard Gaunt, Associate Professor, University of Nottingham and Chair of the Thoroton Council

Richard has been fascinated by the 4th Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyne for a long time but this was not a reprise of his Nottinghamshire History lecture of 2000. Instead, he focussed on the Duke’s later life following his Annus Horribilis of 1822, when the Duke lost both his wife and his eldest daughter.

Henry Pelham-Clinton became a noted electioneer for a while, utilising his aristocratic connections, but never held office in any of the governments of the time. He was led by his religious convictions but never really overcame the conflicts that still existed between Catholics and Protestants and turned his attention to church patronage using the rights which he enjoyed as a significant property owner. Many of these were closely connected with the Duke's family seat at Clumber, whilst others were the subject of his interests in church building and architecture. One significant example of these church patronages was the foundation of a mausoleum and family church at Milton, near West Markham, to house the final remains of his late wife, Georgiana, and other members of the family.

Newcastle exercised his appointments to church livings with particular concern, given the ongoing disputes within Anglicanism between 'low' and 'high' church supporters, and with varying degrees of success. Richard used many of the Duke's own words to describe tales of problems with the patronages in several parishes, often arising from the incompetence or lack of loyalty from the appointed incumbent!

In his presentation, Richard gave us a lively and informative picture of how a well-known aristocratic patron exercised his rights according to his views of the spiritual needs of the day. The wide range of questions generated demonstrated the interest which members received from Richard's handling of the subject matter.

David Hoskins

The Neville Hoskins Lecture - December 2022

'Sir Louis Pearson (1863-1943): industrialist, philanthropist and landowner'.

Professor John Beckett

The Neville Hoskins Lecture is named after a former President and longstanding Council member of the Thoroton Society and a highly respected local historian. This year's talk was to have been delivered by John Wilson. Sadly, John passed away in November. Fortunately John Beckett, Emeritus Professor of English Regional History at The University of Nottingham, agreed to speak. John requires little introduction; a distinguished academic with numerous publications to his name, and, for 28 years, Chair of Council.

John began by explaining how his interest in Louis Pearson had been triggered, when, in 1995, the then School of History at Nottingham, relocated from the Trent Building to Lenton Grove (the home of the Music department since 1954 and, from 1995, the venue for meetings of Thoroton Council). As a historian it was natural that he would ask himself questions about a building of c.1800 and its past inhabitants. Unfortunately, the demands of his 'day job' left those questions unanswered, until retirement in 2020 provided an opportunity to return to the subject of Lenton Grove and its history.However, research for his book Nottingham: A History of Britain's Global University, had not only clarified the role of Jesse Boot in securing the Highfields estate for the institution, but had also raised interesting questions regarding the close relationships between three families who played a significant part in the area's history - Boot, Player and Pearson - all of whom lived on Highfields. Louis Pearson's home being Lenton Grove!

Louis Frederick Pearson was born in Chilwell on the 11th December 1863. A younger son of John Pearson, he was baptised at the local Weslyan Methodist chapel and educated at Grosvenor School. In 1889 he married Gertrude Potter of Trowell at St John's, Beeston. They had three children; Phyllis, the eldest, a second daughter Gladys and a son, Thomas Royston Pearson.In 1893 Louis joined his oldest brother, Henry, in establishing 'The Beeston Foundry Company', with its offices on Mona Street. Renamed 'The Beeston Boiler Company Limited' in 1923, the venture grew out of an earlier family business involving glass houses and heating systems.

Success led in 1896 to them occupying a 28 acre site adjacent to the Midland Railway Comapany's line in Beeston. The complex becoming known to local people simply as 'The Foundry'. Around 1900, the company introduced the 'Robin Hood' range of boilers, which, together with their 'Beeston Radiators', were, in 1912, to be found advertised in The Times newspaper. The death of Henry in 1913 saw Louis take on the role of chairman. The war in 1914 found Louis eager to do his 'bit'. However at 51, age prevented him from military service. Instead, like others who found themselves in a similar situation, he applied himself to active engagement with the 'war effort'. Roles included membership of the Parliamentary recruiting committee; work with the Ministry of Munitions, chairing the Midland Board, the Ministry of War Savings and post- war being chairman of the Beeston War Memorial committee. For his contribution to these and other organisations he was appointed C.B.E. After the war, he remained the driving force behind the development of the company until his death in 1943. In this he was well supported by his nephew, Lt. Colonel Noel Gervais Pearson. Son of his late brother Henry, Noel would eventually succeed his uncle as chairman of the company. Regarded as an enlightened employer, Louis was greatly respected and liked by his employees.

Louis Pearson's philanthropic and charitable work was extensive. He was always directly involved in providing management and leadership and was even 'hands-on'. At Christmas 1928, together with W.G. Player and their respective wives, they distributed turkey dinners to the poor, Louis carving the meat himself!

A big focus for his philanthropic activities was Nottingham General Hospital, for many years being chair of the Hospital Board. In 1924-25 he donated funds for the building of an operating theatre on The Rope Walk wing. He was also chair of the Nottingham Women's Hospital. His giving was not restricted to high profile causes. At a local, community level, Louis gave generously to sports and social clubs, endowing and presenting trophies. To the villagers of Kingston-on-Soar, he gave a cup to be competed for in their annual rose growing competition.To the people of Beeston he gave Broadgate Park and involved himself with the affairs of the Beeston British Legion. For 25 years he was chair of the local Conservative association and an activist with the Nottingham branch of the League of Nations.

Knighted in 1923, Sir Louis served as High Sheriff of Nottingham in 1934. Sadness and scandal were not missing from his life. His eldest daughter, Phyllis, married in 1912, moved to live in Ayrshire. Nothing more is known of her, except she became a widow in 1941. Gladys died unmarried in 1937 aged 44 years. The 'scandal' comes with the death in 1936 of Louis's wife, Gertrude, in the form of Margaret Ethel Grimmer, a young, inexperienced nurse at the General Hospital. Gertrude being taken ill, Louis requested nursing care for his wife. Enter Nurse Margaret Grimmer. Appearing to be improving, Margaret's services were no longer required, however Gertrude's relapse necessitated a recall. Poor Louis was himself too ill to attend his wife's funeral. On the 17th March 1938 Louis, aged 74, married Nurse Grimmer, aged 30, in Suffolk. The event was reported in the Daily Mirror and Nottingham Journal. However, mystery surrounds why the wedding took place in Suffolk! Sir Louis Pearson died at Lenton Grove on the 5th November 1943. His funeral was held at St Leonard's Church, Wollaton, and his body interred at Wollaton Cemetery. In addition to his widow, the congregation included numerous prominent figures, including members of the Player family, the Archdeacon on behalf of the Bishop of Southwell, together with representatives from the hospitals and local authority and many conservatives and members of the community. John speculated as to whether Louis's nephew Noel, who was not only chair of the Beeston Boiler Company but chair too of the Thoroton Society, may have represented the society! Tragedy was to strike all too soon after Louis's funeral. Twelve days later, his only son, Thomas, was killed in a freak tractor accident. Lady Pearson - the former Margaret Grimmer - remained a widow for 57 years dying in 2000. As for 'The Beeston Boiler Company Limited', outdated products and outmoded practices led to insolvency and closure of the business in the 1970s. Questions may remain to be answered, though I'm certain that all who attended the lecture would agree that John Beckett has brought out-of-the shadows a significant benefactor and figure in the history of Beeston and Nottingham.

Rob James

The Maurice Barley Lecture - January 2023

Refurbishing Nottingham’s Lace Market District

Becky Valentine and Victoria Green

Professor Barley was a distinguished local historian and archaeologist, the first Professor of Archaeology at the University of Nottingham. He was an enthusiastic member of the Thoroton Society for many years, editor of Transactions and a Vice President of the Society. His great interest was vernacular architecture, so this lecture was most appropriate in its subject. Becky Valentine and Victoria Green are the second generation co-owners of Micro SMG Spenbeck. Founded in 1981 by two brothers who recognised the need to safeguard as much of Nottingham’s culture and industrial heritage as possible. They worked to regenerate the Lace Market district. Becky and Victoria Talked about the original work done and illustrated the building, particularly the Grade11 listed Birkin building which they own. They described and illustrated it as a working lace mill and then showed how it had been beautifully restored.

They spoke on how the building now helps both public and private sector organisations to improve environments and helps occupants. The slides of the work on the restoration to its original Victorian elegance, combined with its modern interior, allowing it to sustain the building for many years to come.

A modern practical whilst preserving much of the original stained glass and Victorian design. They finally disclosed that under the building were caves which were particularly special because they are of medieval origin. In the future work will be done to preserve them in their original state. An interesting and appreciated lecture by two enthusiastic lecturers allowed us to see how a part of the Lace Market area of Nottingham had been conserved and developed as a working district.

It was followed by a series of questions and informative discussion from members on this restoration and of other buildings in Nottingham.

Penny Messenger