Recollections of a Nonagenarian

Mary Thornton


Ann Mary Thornton

1920s ??

On 15 November, 1838, I was born at Blackhill House, Carlton, and if the fastidious object that this event is no part of my recollections, I can only reply that such recollections are dependant thereon in no inconsiderable measure.

The old homestead still stands on the Burton Joyce road, but has been shorn of its peaceful retirement by the opening of Highclere-drive, which passes close under one of its windows; also by the erection in the immediate vicinity of other dwellings. In my early days it was a rural home remote from town, well back from the road and well separated from Carlton itself. At its gate on the Burton Joyce road there was a spring of clear water besought by passing herds, it also had a somewhat unique possession in the form of a spring in its cellar; the waters found their way into an open brook that flowed down “Dykeside” (now Station-road).

My father, James Lee Dennis, had pastures at Netherfield, in the district where Dennis-street is now situated. These pastures were approached by a narrow leafy lane, which in season presented a glorious show of wild roses. This lane is now Victoria-road, but there were then no houses, for Netherfield, as a township did not exist. Had town planning schemes or the Society for the Preservation of Rural England been to the fore 70 years ago, probably Netherfield would not have been shorn so completely of all natural beauty.

Railways also belong to a later date. I well remember the making of the line to Lincoln and riding in the open tubs, no better than small freight trucks. How the wind did cut the part of us that was exposed above the sides!

“Unsavoury” Carlton

The village of Carlton had a somewhat unsavoury reputation, particularly the lower end of it, which we knew as “Carlton hell-holes.” When we drove through in the trap to Nottingham we were frequently called after “Buck Dennis!”, “Buck Dennis!” and sometimes welcomed with a brickhead. Fortunately, the throwing was indifferent, though on one occasion one of my brothers was badly cut on the head.
There appeared to be some enmity between the labourers of Carlton and my father, the reason for which I do not know. He was the freeholder of his own small farm, “a yeoman of England.”
This was the “hungry forties” before the repeal of the Corn Laws, and presumably a little jealousy, combined with the fact that he would placate none, brought him into disfavour with a particular type. One night when I was five or six years old, I was sleeping in one of the front rooms, and I was startled by the crash of glass, stone and brickheads came hurtling through the windows into the room. I heard my father’s voice call “Lie still!” and a few minutes later the report of his gun; he had fired high from another window. Nothing but fright was intended by the firing, and apparently nothing else ensued, for the men who had assembled in the garden decamped. A brickhead was found on the pillow about a foot from my head, but I was unhurt, thanks to the old-fashioned high-bottomed bedstead. The assailants evidently conjectured wrongly about the occupants of the bedroom.