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The Grange Avenue Story
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© David Hallam - 2008


Those Who Built Grange Avenue


We believe that it is always interesting - and often historically very rewarding - to look at the people who were behind each aspect of local history, That's why we always try to present the family history behind the topics we explore. The development of Grange Avenue involved not only its owner but also a surveyor, architect and builder. Below and by using the links from the menu in the left margin, you will find a little about their life and families.

Edward Smith - born in 1853, was a Nottingham lace curtain manufacturer who came to live at The Grange in Beeston around 1885. His business, was at first based at 11 High Pavement, Nottingham 1 but, by 1885, at Broadway and at St Marys Gate 2 both in Nottingham's Lace Market. It seems that he built this successful business and was able to establish his family residence in style, with a combination of a good education, established family resources, a timely change of direction and a good marriage.

It appears 3 that Edward was the only son, one of four children, of Edward Smith, a Nottingham shoe manufacturer and Mary Ann (née Stapleton), daughter of an Old Basford bleacher 4 The Smith family had become very well established in shoe manufacture in Nottingham; both his father (b. c1823) and grandfather (b. c1804) - each named Edward - followed the trade and, in 1864, the senior of these is to be found in the partnership of Samuel & Edward Smith at Exchange Row 5 In 1851, this Edward senior lived there with his family - including his son and his wife; his daughter and a niece are there too, described as shop workers, presumably associated with the business. Edward junior (our subject's father) had married Mary Ann Stapleton in December 1850 and their four children followed over the next eight years - Ann(1851), Edward (our subject - b. 1853 in Sneinton, Nottingham 6, Ada (b. c1855) and Kate (b. c1858). It appears that, as the only son, the young Edward was prepared carefully for the family business. In 1861, then aged 7, he is found at a small private school in Wymeswold, Nottinghamshire where the principal, Thomas Smith, described himself as a Mathematics and Commercial Teacher. After leaving school, it seems that the young Edward learned the family trade as, in 1871 - then aged 17 - he is working with his father as a clicker - cutting out the leather, the most skilled and highly paid part of the process. All was set for a career in the family shoe business.

However, all appears to have changed when James' father died, when only 45, in 1873. It appears that the business was continued by other family connections and this marked the end of his son's involvement in the trade. This was an era that produced a huge demand for curtain and other lace from around the world - particularly from America - and it is that demand that Nottingham responded to and prospered from. James clearly saw the opportunity; although only 20 when his father died and with no previous experience in the trade, nevertheless, he seems to have been able to establish himself as a lace manufacturer - that is, as a entrepreneur rather than as a craftsman in the trade - such that, by 1881 he was already employing 3 men and 20 girls.

His progress was undoubtably assisted by his marriage in 1880 to Annie Amelia Coulby, the eldest daughter of Richard Coulby, an established Nottingham lace manufacturer. Coulby had traded as a lace manufacturer since before 1851; in 1864 he was trading in partnership with James Archer as Coulby & Archer, from premises on Pilcher Gate, Nottingham 5 and, by 1883, still from Pilcher Gate as Richard Coulby & Co. 1

Clearly, James' business prospered as, by about 1885 - barely 10 years after he started his business - he was able to move his family to a substantial residence in Beeston. He and his wife brought one daughter (Constance Mabel, b.1881) with them and three more were born at Beeston over the next nine years or so (Beatrice Anne (b.c1886, d. 1897), Isabel (b.c1890) and Sybil Irene (b.1894). They settled in The Grange, an imposing residence in Beeston 7 and, by 1901 - before he was 50 - he was able to retire. Progress such as this is rarely achieved in isolation and wider family factors probably played their part - his wife's parents both died in the second half of the 1890s and Edward's mother's relatively comfortable lifestyle as a widow also indicates that the family had access to adequate, perhaps substantial, funds.

So it seems, it was this context - providing for a comfortable life of retirement - that probably led Edward Smith to develop Grange Avenue. But I think we can conclude that he did it with taste and with style that has survived over more than 100 years.

William Fletcher - was born in Nottingham - possibly, more precisely, in Sneinton - in about 1857, the son of William & Sophia Fletcher (née Mathews) a bricklayer turned builder. By 1871, the young William was beginning to learn the trade from his father and it appears that, within a few years, the family moved to Beeston where they appear to have found work building houses. Their work there was to become concentrated in the eastern part of the village and below the centre, helping to open up what was then known as New Lane - later to become Humber Road - and which was soon an area providing housing for workers attracted to the new industries beginning to establish there. William senior died in 1880 and William junior married Ada about that time 8, so that, by 1881 we find Sophia and William and Ada living side by side in Beaconsfield Street, Beeston - with Sophia describing herself as a builder. This small street had been opened up on the east side of New Road between what is now Evelyn Street and Queens Road and it is very likely that the Fletchers were closely involved in this initiative. This was in the middle of what, after 1887, became the site for Thomas Humber's cycle works and, as a result, was to eventually vanish as a residential street. 9

William's sister, Sarah Ellen (b. Sneinton in 1859) appears to have remained unmarried; by 1881, living at home with her widowed mother, she had become a Certified school teacher and, by 1891, she described herself as Certified elementary school Head Teacher. Although not currently identified specifically as such, it appears that she had found a position with the local School Board, founded in 1880. Her mother died in 1895, after which Sarah left Beeston to take a position with a Board school in Lenton.

Meanwhile, Ada had opened a shop - by 1891 - at numbers 24/26 on Beeston High Road and was then living there with her family and trading there as a fancy draper. William, of course, continued his buiding activities and, soon after that date, between 1894 and 1896, he was engaged in building Grange Avenue, Beeston for Edward Smith. As we have seen, the documents show a man who was stretched financially by the project and who was also suffering with his health - all the more interesting as we now know that it was at that time that his mother died. However, what we also know is that he - no doubt assisted by his own son William (b. 1882) - continued with apparent success as a house builder in Beeston. Although, by 1901, he and his wife had moved to 'Dunkirk Road' (probably an early name for Fletcher Road), Beeston, there seems little doubt that the north side of Fletcher Road - off of Humber Road, Beeston - was developed by him and, indeed, the workshop at the beginning of that street, on the north side, was in all probability built by him to provide a base for his business.

William Fletcher died on 15 January 1908, aged only 51 10. He left an estate valued at 6,847 11, a significant amount at that time, indicating that it would appear that his later house building venture was particularly profitable.

All in all, the story of an industrious life that has left its traces in Beeston for those who seek it out !

James Huckerby - was born in about 1826 in Long Clawson, Leicestershire. He was the oldest of the family of at least nine, born to James and Sarah Huckerby (née Swain). Both James senior and most of his sons trained and worked as bricklayers and it is in this way that James junior received his early experience in the building trade. After this, he appears to have branched out on his own, taking building commissions as they presented themselves - apparently with mixed success.

In 1854 he married Mary Ann Shrewsbury, the eldest daughter of Thomas Shrewsbury, a Beeston shoemaker, and his wife Jane, a one-time shopkeeper, who lived in The City, Beeston. After living for a time at Park Place and at Hampton Street 5, Nottingham they moved to live in The City, Beeston, with her father, after he became a widower. Here they appear to have lived out their lives, Mary Ann dying in 1900, followed in the next year by James.

During the last ten years of his life, James specialised in supervising building contacts as a Clerk of the Works. It was probably this skill - and his general experience in the building trade - that attracted Edward Smith to hire Huckerby to at as "architect". Since the plan drawing architectural role appears to have been performed by Arthur Calvert, it appears that Huckerby's role was one of supervision during construction.

Arthur Richard Calvert - had perhaps - in may ways - the most interesting of the four lives connected with the development of Grange Avenue. Certainly, it is an excellent example of how one can never tell what connections will be revealed when a life is looked at in detail.

He was born in Clapham, London towards the end of 1852 and spend much of his childhood in Dorking in Surrey and later in Huddersfield, Yorkshire. This varied early life reflects the reality of his father's life as a Church of England clergyman 12. In fact, his father, the Reverand William Bainbridge Calvert was born in Nottinghamshire - in Averham, near Newark where he was baptised in 1820 - and, in 1844, married Charlotte Caparn from a well-established Newark family of malsters and farmers. His own family background was also impressive. His father, William John Calvert appears to have married twice; two sons by his first wife became a well known Southwell surgeon and a local farmer respectively and his second wife, Jane - the Reverend gentleman's mother - settled with private means when widowed, in property associated with Balderton Hall complete with very adequate domestic assistance 13. William was still living at home when his father died but there still seems to have been little or no difficulty with the availability of the necessary resources to establishing him as a Clergyman. This was the classic calling of the youngest son, but one that, in that era, required substantial private means to purchase livings, educate children, finance adequate domestic servants and provide the family with a respectable and genteel lifestyle. It is very clear that family resources made all of this possible for William. In barely fifteen years, his wife bore him eleven children - four daughters and seven sons. This size of family required substantial domestic assistance - typically three live-in servants - and the accommodation to house all these as well as the regular visitors and the occasional pupil - would have needed to be substantial and correspondingly expensive to maintain. But, for each of the family - including the three daughters who seem never to have married - it was a life that seems to have been very comfortable.

Arthur Richard was the the couple's seventh child and their fifth son. We have no specific detail of his early schooling - although we can be sure that it was adequate and probably provided privately. What we do know is that, by the age of 18, he was a pupil civil engineer and that he subsequently became qualified in that profession 14. In 1880 he married Mary Caroline Holmes, the eldest child and only daughter of a Huddersfield iron founder and contractor to the gas industry. After their marriage in Huddersfield, the couple made their home in Radcliffe-on-Trent in Nottinghamshire where, no doubt, Arthur would have been able to call on a substantial family network which would help him to establish his career. Over the next seven years, five children, four of them daughters, were born to them. By 1888 they had moved to New Basford and, at least by 1883 1, Arthur had established a office at 18 Low Pavement in Nottingham as an architect and surveyor. His connection with Radcliffe on Trent remained for many years however as he continued as surveyor for the purpose of the building bye-laws in that village. His Low Pavement address remained his professional base throughout his career - although, from time to time he worked with a partner; by 1885 he had been joined by the architect William Wright 2 and, by 1905 15, he was working with another architect, William Richard Gleave - who, together with Bernard Jessop, went on to be the professional partner of Charles Henry Calvert, Arthur's son when he entered the profession from about 1913 16, 17. His involvement with Edward Smith required him to lay out Grange Avenue and provide plans - presumable including architectural drawings for the houses that were to be erected. Smith may well have become aware of him through his work in the 1880s, planning the first roads in the southern part of the Mapperley Park Estate and in the Carrington/Sherwood area 18. His later homes - by 1905, at Thorncliff, St Andrews Road 15 and Grasmere, Dagmar Grove by 1913 16 - probably arise from his involvement in these areas and may well represent examples of his work.

Arthur's mother had died, at the relatively young age of 60, in 1877, a few years before his own marriage and his move to Nottinghamshire. After living as a widower for almost ten years, after his move to the take the living of Maisey Hampton in Gloucester and then aged 66, he married for a second time to Emily Attlee, then 46 and previously unmarried, the youngest daughter of Richard Attlee, a successful Dorking miller, and his wife Harriet. Remarkably, we find that Emily was the aunt of Clement Richard Attlee, aged about 3 at the time of their marriage, but who was, of course, destined to become Deputy Prime Minister to Churchill during World War 2 and the famous reforming Prime Minister during the postwar Labour Government. Although Emily outlived her husband for many years - he died in 1892 and she in 1929 19 - she did not, of course live to see him at the peak of his career. Arthur, who died in 1922, also did not live to realise the rise of his step mother's nephew to ultimate power.

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Footnotes - (Note: the respective footnote text may now be viewed in a pop-up window by clicking on any blue, underscored note number within the main text)
Where reference is made to the Probate Calender (Index giving brief details of grant of Probate/Administration), unless specifically stated, the full will and probate documentation has not been seen.
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Standard genealogical sources - including census entries - were also used; source references may be found in the associated family group sheet.

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© David Hallam - 2008