Memories Of The Old St Ann’s

A book was published by Plowright Press in 2002: St Ann’s Nottingham: Inner-City Voices was a compilation of memories written by people who lived and worked in St Ann’s before the demolition of the homes in the 1970s. 30,000 people were rehomed and some left, never to return.

The book was written by Ruth Johns. In researching for the book, she asked people to submit their personal memories and photographs.

Angie Miles (nee Cundy) wrote about her memories of a St Ann’s childhood and the Hungerhill Allotment Gardens, an area she still visits. Unfortunately, her words were never submitted to the author in time to be included in the book.

We can now put that right.

Angie (centre) at Sycamore School in the 1950s

The above photograph shows Angie with the following from left to right. Victor Crane, Michael Huylett, John O’Rose, Peggy Dexter and Roger Tinsley. Where are they now?

Here’s what Angie wrote around the year 2000

I was born and grew up on Brighton Street. We never had a garden allotment but my Uncle Sid, who lived on the next street to us certainly did.

I still have contacts now with the 30 years old ‘new St Ann’s, as my daughter Emma works at Sycamore School, which incidentally is built right on the top of my Mum and Dad’s old house.

Whenever I come down Hungerhill Road (which I still insist on calling Sycamore Road) I look across at the old ‘rec’ and garden allotments at the back, and notice how small it all looks.

I went to Sycamore Infants School and recall being taken through the gardens to find the biggest and reddest leaves, and collecting acorns for the nature study table. This even went on at the Board school when we used the gardens for Nature Trails with Mr Galloway. I imagine it was the nearest we got to being in the countryside.

Anyway, back to the allotments, which as kids was a great place to play. We would all meet up at the ‘rec’ on Sycamore Road and play hide and seek up and down the avenues. I remember ‘Donkey Steps’ but cannot remember the exact amount. I remember the smoky chimneys and the smell of garden fires.

Summer evenings were always so long, we used to walk all the way through the gardens to Coppice Road Rec, and still get home before dark.

How life has changed for children. Imagine our grand-children coming home from school, quickly eating their tea and then going out to play up the gardens for three hours, with just a few pennies for some sweeties or an ice lolly. Back at 8, a quick wash at the kitchen sink, half-hour TV, and bed.

All gone, so sad, something I will never forget.

The highlight of the walk to Coppice Rec was to stop off for a drink at The Wishing Well. We would throw in a half-penny, or a white pebble, make a wish, have drink and pinch a clump of watercress to chomp on the way.

I remember being kissed by Michael Morley at The Wishing Well. Can’t remember making the wish, but can certainly remember the kiss!

Brighton Street was the only through-street from Dame Agnes St to Peas Hill Road, so the Shipstones Brewery horses would regularly come down the street, leaving their ‘calling card’. It was always a quick dash round to Uncle Sid in Edgar Rise, to tell him of the droppings. There was much action with wheelbarrows, buckets and shovels. First come, first served.

My dad was no gardener, but always appeared to be Sid’s right hand man in September for the annual Chrysanthemum Show at the Westminster Abbey pub. Can’t remember Sid ever winning but can remember Dad’s beaming face when we returned home very late, full of Shippos, for his Sunday dinner. A bunch of chrysanths the size of dinner plates and a carrier bag full of garden goodies soon smoothed over my mum’s annoyance about the long dinner-time session.

Sundays were lovely in Brighton Street, as the gardeners would come down the street with their barrows full of lovely flowers and veg. I recall quite a lot of trading was done in the local pubs. It seems gardening gave everyone a thirst.

Even today, chrysanths are my favourite flowers. I love their colours but most of all the smell reminds me of my childhood.

A few years ago, a chap called Johnny Gough came to help me in my garden at home. The first thing he said to me was,

“My name is Johnny Gough, I smoke a pipe, I’ve got a glass eye and if you don’t like it – tough.”

I thought I liked the sound of this guy and true to form, he was an ‘Old St Ann’ser’. He used to live on Ransom Road and still had an allotment on Hungerhills. He took me over one September morning, we sat and had a cuppa in his brick shed, wandered around the greenhouses, met some of his old buddies who like John, still have their hearts set in Hungerhills.

The allotments cover 53 acres of land and at one time there were around 600 individual gardens. There are only about 480 now, but only 39 are occupied. The allotments have been passed down from father to son, but unfortunately with the passage of time, so many of them are now derelict and neglected. Vandalism is a big thing so it’s not surprising the old guys are slowly ‘hanging up their hats’.

I made a visit to The Wishing Well the other day. It’s now all overgrown but nevertheless, I closed my eyes, took in the long heady smells of childhood days, and made a wish…… but when I opened my eyes……. Michael Morley was nowhere in sight.

Angie Miles

The book Inner City Voices is not easy to source, even as a second hand copy.

There is a great website that contains lots of information about the old St Anns, including this page about Brighton Street.

Angie still lives in Nottingham and keeps in touch with many people from the Old St Ann’s.

Thanks for the memories Angie.

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