Friday, 6 May 2011

Event - Blue plaque scheme to commemorate some of Broxtowe borough's finest

BLUE plaques are to be seen on many buildings in London, commemorating men and women who, for one reason or another, achieved public prominence.

Usually, they are on buildings with which the people were connected, either because they were born or brought up in them, or because it was while they were living in them that they became famous.

English Heritage, which administers the blue plaque scheme, ran a pilot project across the country from 1998 to 2005 but is no longer responsible for plaques outside Greater London and is instead helping communities to set up their own schemes.

Now, Beeston and District Local History Society, Stapleford Local History Society, and Beeston Civic Society, have formed a partnership to promote blue plaques in the Broxtowe area. They are about to unveil two plaques to prominent local people: Arthur Cossons and Admiral Sir John Borlase Warren.

Cossons was a schoolmaster and local historian in Beeston for many years. Born in Somerset in 1893, he arrived in Beeston in 1922 to begin a teaching career which lasted until his retirement in 1958.

He was headmaster of Church Street Junior Boys' School for 36 years. The school has gone but the block of flats on the site is called Cossons House in his memory.

Despite the demands of such a responsible job, Cossons found time to become deeply involved in local history, both locally and further afield.

He wrote about turnpike roads but knew all there was to know about heraldry, the postal system and philately in general, buildings and building materials, numismatics, typography, farm wagons, the rigs of sailing ships, and railways.

He wrote regularly for the Nottingham Journal, promoted school museums and taught adult education classes across the county, always travelling by bus because he never learnt to drive. His son Neil, himself educated at Church Street, learnt everything he knew about local history at his father's knee before enjoying a glittering career during which he was director of the Science Museum and chairman of English Heritage.

Admiral Sir John Borlase Warren is probably best known in Nottingham for the public house named after him at Canning Circus. Born in Stapleford in 1753, he played little part in local life but enjoyed a successful naval career, initially during the American War of Independence but later, and most significantly, during the Napoleonic wars.

In April 1794, he was commodore of the frigate squadron off the north-west French coast assisting in the blockade of Brest. His squadron captured a number of French frigates. As a result, he was soon regarded as a naval hero and, when he visited Nottingham in September 1794, diarist Mrs Abigail Gawthern recorded that he was "drawn into the town amidst the acclamation of thousands, preceded by a company of the Light Horse, twelve sergeants and five drummers".

Following his leadership of an expedition to Quiberon Bay in 1795, and his capture of three French frigates in 1796, he was given the freedom of the town.

In 1797, he was elected unopposed as MP for Nottingham, and returned again in 1802 in a hard-fought contest he clearly found distasteful because of the intimidation and rioting that accompanied the poll.

He remained as one of the town's two MPs until 1806, when he did not stand for re-election. How much (or perhaps how little) time he spent in the Commons is unclear, since he was frequently at sea, and between 1802 and 1804 he served as ambassador to Russia.

In 1805, Borlase Warren resumed his naval duties, and he continued to enjoy success at sea. He was commander-in-chief on the North American Station 1807-10, when he was promoted to the rank of full admiral. After that, he was unemployed for a while until the outbreak of the Anglo-American war in 1812, when he was sent to America again and made commander-in-chief of the consolidated North American, Jamaica and Leeward Islands squadrons.

His naval career came to an end in 1813 but he received various honours. He was made a knight grand cross of the Bath in 1815 and a knight grand cross of Hanover in 1819, in recognition of the part he had played in the war effort. However, he did not receive the peerage he really wanted.

He died suddenly in 1822 and was buried at Stratton Audley, in Oxfordshire. There is a monument to him in St Mary's Church, Attenborough, but the Canning Circus pub is the most prominent reminder that inland Stapleford was the birthplace of one of the most active and faithful serving officers in the British navy during the Napoleonic wars.

The Arthur Cossons plaque will be unveiled tomorrow afternoon at the old Beeston Village Cross by his son Sir Neil following a welcome meeting at 2.15pm in Chilwell Road Methodist Church.

The Sir John Borlase Warren plaque will be unveiled on Wednesday, May 18, at 11am in the Walter Parker VC Memorial Square, Stapleford, by the Vice Lord Lieutenant of Notts, Col Tim Richmond.

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