Saturday, 31 December 2011

Article - How railway embankment became residents' very own nature reserve (West Bridgford)

EVERY weekday morning, many of the housewives in Selby Road, West Bridgford, would be out in their aprons, waving to the steam train as it puffed its way to London.

The "Businessman's Special" left Nottingham at 8.15am, and it was something of a tradition that you waved to it as it went past, along the Nottingham Midland line that in its heyday ran parallel to Selby Road.
Jesse Gray, a prolific builder who died at the age of 90 in 1972, built the first houses on the road, on land bought from Sir Horatio Davis (after whom Davis Road is named) in 1913.

He built 23 houses, at the lower, or south, end of the road. His son, Percy Edward Gray, later continued the portfolio with a further 40 or 50 houses, on either side of the road.

In those early days, from what is now Malvern Road up to Boundary Road and beyond, local residents recall "it was all fields".

Even when more dwellings were gradually added, there were as many allotments as houses, and the upper, northern end was an unmade road.

The last local train along the line was the 6.20pm to St Pancras on Saturday April 16 1966. Subsequently there was one express train a day until the end of April 1967, and the last freight train ran on November 1 1968. The line was finally removed early in 1969. But the embankment remains – although not without incident.

In 1984 there was a huge fire on the embankment, which had become overgrown. It was caused by a spark from a bonfire in a garden on St Helen's Road at the end of a dry spell.

Within minutes the undergrowth was in flames. By the time the fire was out, there was little vegetation left.
The only casualties reported were a pond full of fish; a householder and her son had just that morning completed the pond, and stocked it with goldfish, none of which survived the thick coating of ash that covered the water.

Ten years later, the embankment faced a threat of a different sort. The local council had a plan to level the land and build more housing.

Quite how they were going to provide reasonable access to each property was anybody's guess. The proposal caused an uproar from every house in Selby Road, and in October 1995 the council backed down, with a letter to residents saying they were not proceeding, owing to "a lack of interest in the proposal". Oh – and incidentally – they wanted £10 a year from all the householders!

"It is now our intention to regularise the use of this land by granting adjacent owners a Licence Agreement to occupy the land for a yearly fee. Any parties who do not wish to enter into such an agreement will be required to vacate the land".

So the council were having their pound of flesh. But it was cheap at the price, to maintain a vital piece of heritage, and to have created what is now known as the Green Line, a thriving nature reserve, much appreciated by all West Bridgford folk who walk along it.

More recently, the embankment has had another surge of energy, with the Selby Road Open Gardens weekends, now coming up to their fourth year.

Children who now have children of their own remember with nostalgia their trips up the embankment to the "metal factory" on the Ludlow Hill industrial estate.

Until the end of the Second World War the estate was the site of Smart's brickworks, and continued to produce bricks until the kiln was demolished in the early 1950s.

The trading estate grew up around the brickworks, with a variety of businesses including car servicing, and the famous "metal factory". This was a manufacturer of cheap trophies for sporting clubs and institutes. The "seconds" were chucked out on to the rubbish tip behind the factory, and many a house on Selby Road boasted a somewhat dented and tarnished cup or plaque brought home by gleeful offspring.

When they weren't up at the metal factory the kids were at the "nugget factory" as they called the sweet manufacturers in South Road who produced rather good nougat, and who were usually of a mind to give children a handout of "seconds".

Other residents recall the morning nursery school run by Constance Collier in her conservatory, in the '50s. And the two Misses Harrison, on the "evens" side of the road, who took in a lodger, Miss Cuthbert, and used to nip through the gate at the bottom of the garden, through the garden of the two Misses Collingtons, to catch the bus on Musters Road.

There were many single ladies around in those post-war days.

There are a great many memories of Selby Road, and as it approaches the 100th anniversary since the first foundations were laid in 1913, an archive is being put together to collate them all.

Gill and Steve Tanner are working to put together as many recollections, anecdotes and photographs as possible, from as many residents, past and present, as possible.

If you can contribute, please get in touch with them on 0115 981 2039, e-mail, or to see some of the information look at


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