Interview by Margaret Cooper in 2000 for the “Oxton Now & Then” publication.
Kathleen Crow, artist. Married to John. Lives in Blind Lane, Oxton.
“I was an only one. My parents were Francis Hopkin and Levi Hopkin and they lived at Rose Cottage, and my grandparents were living then at Yew Tree House, which was next door to Rose Cottage [now Crow’s Nest]. Father was born in Oxton at the Green Dragon, which his father owned.
“Father decided that he would like to buy a piece of land that he could build on, so that he didn’t have to go out of the village. At that time very little land was sold from the Estate. We were probably one of the first to buy land off the Estate and we were offered either a piece of land at the top of Oxton Hill which was opposite Darwin’s house, or the piece at Blue Haze”.
“Blue Haze was about an acre and a half, I should think. While it was being built we went to live with grandma at Fountain Dale and eventually we came back in 1926 to Blue Haze. I can remember the garden was just a field and eventually father did an awful lot of stonework. He was very keen on gardening and he built all the stone walls and the rock gardens whilst mother, who was very keen on flowers and alpines, did all the flower garden. Mr Barmby, Les Barmby’s father, worked as a gardener. Father, who was in the motor trade, used to bring cars home, old cars mainly, the little old Morris Minors, and I was allowed to drive them around. That’s where I first started to learn to drive, in and out of stones”.
“I never went to the village school. I didn’t start school until the age of seven. I had been taught a certain amount by Mr Hunt, then the Vicar. I used to go down to the Vicarage. He was a little chap and he always wore a little black flat sort of large brimmed hat and he used to terrify me. I then went to the [Nottingham] High School. I was driven there by father in the morning who went to work, then I got a bus back to Daybrook, where the business was at that time. My mother was usually working and I used to be brought home by mother. Then at Blue Haze we had a swimming pool built and this was a great luxury because I suppose it was the only swimming pool at that time in the vicinity. Most of the children in the village used to come up and swim in it. All the girls at [Oxton] school I think wore a little blue sort of bonnet rather like sun bonnets in a sort of cottony, linen material. They had to curtsey to the Squire’s wife when they saw her. I know this because my father’s sister went to school in Oxton”.
“Grandfather [Tom Shipside] was at the Blacksmith’s shop, [which] he was renting off the Estate [in about 1900]. They were relying on carriers’ carts, just [to] travel backwards and forwards. There were no vehicles, no cars or anything. He started with bicycles and grandma did most of the work as far as I can remember. She used to mend the punctures and at that time I think Charlie Strutt and Nellie Strutt were helping with the bicycles. [Grandfather] was very keen on the local council and things, and he put up as Liberal agent. Now this of course wasn’t quite the thing to do, to have notices all over the Blacksmith’s shop when he was in property belonging to the Estate and belonging to obviously somebody who was a Tory. So I think it was the squire of the village at that time decided to go to him one day and say, ‘look Tom if you don’t take these notices down as Liberal agent, you better get out of the Blacksmith’s shop’. So he then decided well perhaps that was the best thing to do, so he went searching for premises and eventually found the premises at Daybrook, which is more or less opposite Daybrook Church and it was then that he started selling Morris cars. There were quite a lot of people in the village working for us at different times. It was very successful and then I suppose as more of the family got into it, it became more difficult and they decided eventually to sell it, and it finished altogether”.
“Quite a lot of the activities in the village were geared around the Methodist Memorial Hall. Before the Memorial Hall was built, there was the Rest Room under the Chapel, which was the old Sunday School room. They used to have cinema shows in [there], given by father. I can remember when I was, I suppose ten or eleven, mother used to play the piano to the film that was being shown, mainly films like Laurel and Hardy and cowboy films. They were silent so therefore she used to produce the music and according to the rate that the horses were going [so] she played. And daughter [Kathleen] used to go round selling chocolates”.
“[The memorial hall] was built for the Chapel [in 1933] so there was a Ministers Vestry in it and a kitchen and a large hall with a stage because that was where they used to have the drama in the village. They really did very well. They started with the Pantomime”.
“As a child, I seem to remember we had a service in the morning, service in the evening and Sunday school in the afternoon and then quite often we had the Minister to lunch or tea, so Sunday’s were all very much taken over. The ministers were mainly local preachers [at the Methodist chapel]; there was a choir and mother played the organ for about fifty years and before the organ was made into an electric organ, or whatever it was, it was pumped by a pump, which you had to get one of the youngsters to do. Sometimes the boys did it and the boys were devils because they would let the wind go, when the little sort of weight went up and down, they would let it go past where it should have gone and poor mother had no wind left to play the organ”.
“[In the village then were] mainly farmers and agricultural workers and I suppose the Squire and his wife. There were very few professional people, one or two obviously, but I think we were the ones that were going out to business, and very few cars. As mother always said, it was what you call top and bottom and no middle”.
John and Kathleen Crow (2nd & 3rd from left) with their Rally Trophies at Shipsides, 1958
“I returned home [from school in Switzerland] at the outbreak of war. Then I had to start and do something and at that time one either went into the Forces or you went on the land. As we’d got three acres of land at Forest Mill, and buildings, I started to cultivate that, and work on the land. [There] was a smallish house, originally it was owned by James Hopkin, who was uncle to my father, who at that time years ago was a miller, and he was the miller of Oxton. The mill itself was where Millfield is now. Millfield was built on the site of the old windmill. It was a working mill and before the war it was a post mill [it stood on posts]. It was 1908 when it was first built and it was worked as a flour mill and then there was a terrific storm apparently and it blew down and so the mill timbers and mill stones were brought down to, what is now Forest Mill, to the mill building there. The actual mill was driven by an engine. It was a corn mill so people used to take their corn to be ground there”.
“I had a Trusty tractor, which was a tractor that you walked behind, but it was driven by a petrol engine. It really was a monster and I think I got masses of muscles from it that I never knew existed before. It was mainly potatoes I was growing at that time. I used to sell them and they used to be used for feeding the pigs. I eventually acquired a better one. It was a David Brown, it had got a hydraulic lift on it, so it was capable of travelling backwards and forwards with the implements on it. I had two trailers, one a smaller trailer and the other one a four-wheeled trailer which was a bit difficult, as anybody that reverses a four-wheel trailer will know. I used to use it for carting timber for the Estate I remember. That’s when I started to do tractor contracting. I was going from one farm to another, ploughing or harrowing or cultivating, you name it, I did it. I suppose I enjoyed it, but I found it very difficult to start with [not] having done any real work like that before. Also I had quite a problem being a girl I suppose and the farmers not knowing me, it took them a while to realise that perhaps I could do the job”.
“I decided to have two cows which I kept at Forest Mill. They had to be milked morning and evening, which I used to hate doing. They were kept in a field across the road, I suppose it was Godson’s field at that time. I had a pig who eventually had piglets and the piglets I couldn’t keep because I hadn’t got any food to feed them on. They wouldn’t let me have sufficient, only having three acres, I wasn’t allowed very much. So eventually I sent them to market and the morning the lorry was coming to take them to market John, who is now my husband, had heard that I was going to sell these pigs, and so he came down and decided to buy them off me. I didn’t really think he paid me sufficient for them. I think he gave me three pound a pig for them. John was living at Beanford Farm over the water-splash. [His family] left Lancashire and came down to Beanford when he was about fourteen.They were farming at Beanford. I was twenty seven when I was married in 1947 and John was two years younger, so he’ll never catch up with me will he?”
“There was an aircraft landed just above Beanford Farm [during the War]. John and his father went to rescue the men from it, but unfortunately they were dead when they got there. I think something came down at the top of Oxton Hill too, and there was one at Farnsfield came down”.
“I remember a certain amount of rationing, we were very limited with what we could get, we’d probably get so much butter and so much sugar and also there was clothes rationing. You were limited to what you could buy. You could buy it off the black market probably, or you could buy it if it wasn’t on utility sort of thing, but it wasn’t easy. Most of my underwear was made out of parachute material. I had a cousin that was very good at embroidery and she used to get these pieces of parachute and they were all right, but the colours were a bit hectic sometimes. If you got a white one you did very well, but they were mainly sort of yellow and green and blue that looked horrible”.
“My grandparents were living in [Oxton] Manor when my children were younger and they used to go down to the Manor to see them. It was a lovely old house, I used to love it. It was an old manor house I suppose, it was in and out and all over the place. I always thought I would have loved to have lived there, but at that time when my grandparents eventually died, it was offered to my uncle at probate value, but he didn’t really want it., It was offered at six thousand pounds. I couldn’t have afforded six thousand pounds. The Eastwoods came into the Manor then and Lady Eastwood altered it”.
“I was always interested in art, mother did an awful lot of craft work and she used to go to art lessons and I used to go with her, but she was quite a good artist in her own right. She had pictures in Nottingham Castle at different times. I went to the Art School in Nottingham. I do all sorts of things now. I paint for myself really. I paint mainly landscapes and quite a lot of abstract painting and I find that I paint according also to what I’m feeling like, and what material I paint in is how I feel at that time”.
” I quite enjoy painting barns and things. They’re not what I normally do, but I do think that there are quite a lot of old buildings; it’s rather nice to have records of them”.
Home Farm Barn by Kathleen Crow