A TRIP TO LEICESTERSHIRE

FRIDAY 27th to 29th MAY 1983

In 1983 the town of Coolville was still at the centre of the North West Leicestershire coal field. It had been founded in the 1830s when a colliery was built there. Up until that time the whole area was just a path called Long Lane and a tract of waste land. Samuel Fisher, writing at the end of the nineteenth century, described what the area looked like in 1832. “We see a large tract of waste on both sides of the road… covered with gorse-bushes, blackberry brambles, etc., with not a single house on either side of the way.” What drew me all those miles away to the town? I could have told you thirty years ago, but now who knows?

CLOCKTOWER

AFTER packing my car I left home at 10. I wanted to get on and so I ate my lunch (corned beef sandwiches) as I drove along. My first stop was at Oundle; as that was a place that I did not know I had a look round. It is quite picturesque but dominated by the school. I took my concertina to the musical instrument shop and left it for the man to inspect. He wasn’t in, but I hope he will offer me something for it. I stopped at a junk shop just outside Corby and made some purchases. At Leister I found an 1885 brochure by Broadwood pianos, which I bought. There is a ruined castle at Ashby de la Zouch, near Coalville.

I got to Coalville at half past five and set up my stand; it looks quite good. I was selling my stock items, basically all sorts of magnifiers and few other DIY goods. I left the stock in good hands (I hope) and went off to find a bed for the night. I found a pub called the Fallen Knight which had few rooms at £13.50 a night. I had looked up bookshops in Coalville in Yellow Pages and had found one, but when I went to find it I discovered it had turned into a video studio. Still I had an interesting walk round the town, though most places were shut of course.

I had cheese and biscuits for supper and a drink in the bar. I phoned home to tell my sister Tig about the place I had found to stay. I couldn’t phone Molly as she was out having dinner with Margaret Ashcroft, her former boss (used to be the headmistress at the school she taught at). She had lots to hear, as Margaret had just got back from her visit to Israel. My bedroom at the pub has a colour TV, so I watched Are You Being Served, followed by the news. The exhibition I am taking part in is located in a hall right on the edge of the colliery.

On Saturday morning I got up by 8; there were tea bags, coffee and a kettle for me to make a drink. After half an hour of TV I went down for breakfast. It took nearly half an hour to arrive and when it did there were bits in the milk and shell in the egg (I had egg and sausage). I went into town and bought a copy of Punch (about the only weekly I could find). I bought Waterways World (a monthly) and a Ashby de la Zouch Guide Book. I also bought a Telegraph to prevent boredom as I sit by my stall. In fact I was not bored, as the model railway track was busy giving rides by a steam and diesel hauled train. There were all sizes of models from N gauge to 10¼”.

The exhibition was to celebrate 150 yeas of the founding of the town, when the first mine was established there. There were memento photos of the town at a nearby stall. I had sausage rolls and a cup of tea for lunch. I read my papers fairly thoroughly and spent my time sucking throat sweets as I have a sore throat. The hall is air conditioned; but being a mining town there was lot of coal dust in the air outside. On the first day I did a fairly brisk trade and sold £100 worth of goods.

AFTER the EXHIBITION was over for the day I went to have look at Burton on Trent (the beer town); not impressive. Then back to my hotel (pub). On the TV I watched a Betjeman programme. On Sunday morning I had bacon and egg for breakfast. I bought the Sunday papers, there was an article on women at Oxford. Lady Margaret Hall of course is now coeducational and they now have a male principal. Sales at my stall were not as good as yesterday, but I still took nearly fifty quid.

There were a lot of locomotives on the track today. I had my lunch in the clubhouse again. I made my last sale at 5.45 and got packed up by 6.45. I got a Chinese take away at Leicester. It cost me £2.20. Sweet and sour chicken, prawn crackers, a pancake roll and egg fried rice; a lot for a meal for one. I ate this as I drove along and stopped in Uppingham for a drink. I called on Molly on the way home, where I got in at 11.30. (Molly was the lady I was to marry three years later.) My dog Fido was delighted to see me (he had been left at home with my sister Tiggie).

JOSEPH MASON

joemasonspage@gmail.com

THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF THE PAST

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