A fleeting visit to Newstead in Nottinghamshire, a former mining village whose colliery closed in 1987.
To the superficial eye it ticks the boxes for the identikit “former mining village”. The rows of terraces are present and correct (though most look reasonably spruce). There is a vandalised phone-box (someone had ingeniously managed to weld a melted cigarette lighter into the coin slot). Two hooded youths (straight from central casting) loitered outside the closed-down fish and chip shop and were asked by a passing old man in a flat cap “What’s the matter, lads, nothing to do?”. So far, so predictable.
It is true that there doesn’t seem to be a great deal to do there. It has a small Post Office and convenience store, a Primary School, a Community Centre (with a cafe, although that seems to shut at 2.00 pm), a Sure Start and a skatepark. It also has its own railway station (which many villages would die for, or without) and a reasonably frequent bus service. A little sleuthing shows that the village attracted some serious attempts in regeneration towards the end of the last decade, including the lottery-funded Village SOS project, which involved turning the site of the former colliery into a Country Park. Ominously, there seems to be little trace of regenerative activity since about 2011.
Above all what it has going for it is its natural beauty, which would particularly appeal to lovers of deciduous forests in Autumn. One contributor to the regeneration project described what they were trying to do as “healing the scars” inflicted upon the landscape by the industrial revolution (presumably an allusion to local boy D.H. Lawrence). It seemed to me at least as much like the sands of the desert steadily removing all trace of human habitation, but no doubt that it is merely a matter of temperament.
Inevitably, as a barely regenerate Man of Sensibility, what moved me most were the ruins rather than the signs of renewal. Close by the railway station is this –
What appears to be a functioning football pitch, overlooked by a cricket pavilion and ringed with benches, suggesting that cricket has been played here in the not too distant past. The story appears to be that Newstead Colliery, a strong side in its heyday who produced several County cricketers (this is Larwood country), merged with nearby Newstead Abbey in 1987 when the Colliery closed and their former ground was purloined for a housing development (though much of that is still scrubland). The merged club continued until earlier this year, when it disbanded through a lack of players. The hands on the pavilion clock have been broken off, but they seem to be stuck permanently at about 12.20 (so it’s unlikely that there will be honey, or anything else, for tea).
On the other side of the station is this – the Station Hotel (the rail history of Newstead is complicated: in its heyday the village had two stations, both shut by the 1960s. Almost miraculously, the Robin Hood line was reopened in 1993 thanks, initially, to support from the local Council) –
a rather lovely building to my eye, and the only pub in the village, but no longer open for business, a small notice in the window plaintively advertising “Public House for sale“.
The delicate lettering on the frontage records the date 1911, although a local source indicates that it opened in 1881. As recently as 2008 the hotel was receiving plaudits for its choice of real ales and beer garden, it seems to have hosted musical evenings, but, like the Cricket Club, it met its end earlier this year. If I had the money, I’d be tempted to buy it myself. Part of its appeal is simply that it is a railway hotel, a fossil from the days when it was assumed that it should be possible to step off a train and find a bed for the night, a decent supper and a nightcap in a companionable snug.
But, inevitably, there is a melancholy tinge to these pleasant imaginings : the conclusion of Larkin’s “Friday night in the Royal Station Hotel”:
In shoeless corridors, the lights burn. How
Isolated, like a fort, it is –
The headed paper, made for writing home
(If home existed) letters of exile. Now
Night comes on. Waves fold behind villages.
8 thoughts on “Waves Fold Behind Villages : A Brief Glimpse of Newstead”
Thanks, WH. A lovely place to live if you have a little money and are looking for a quiet life, I suspect.
What a real shame you didn’t speak to any of the residents. There is a huge amount of community spirit in Newstead, the visitors centre is due to open in the spring, had you walked on to the country park you’d have seen the lake freshly stocked with fish ready for its new enterprise to begin next year. Had you spoken to the people at The Cast Angling Project, you’d have known how well it is doing in engaging the disenfranchised young people of Nottinghamshire. Had you spoken to any of the parents you’d have known that the school has become so popular in the last year or so that they are having to build new classrooms. You can contact us an repay a visit if you’d like to know what this place is really like and what a wonderful, friendly place it is to live. The regeneration projects are going strong in Newstead with the likes of social enterprises such as Newstead Enterprise and Village Groups such as Future Newstead which have begun working on the second 5-year installment of the Parish Plan.
Drop by any village on a freezing, drab, November day and you may get the wrong impression. Especially when over 50% of its residents are out working in mostly health care, social care and related jobs. Newstead is also known as a bit of a ‘hippy haven,’ a place where there are lots of walks in the woods, allotments, our children learn forest schools and the community does indeed raise the kids round here. There are very few examples of villages I would think in which the original mining community and ‘new comers’ get on so well and have such a great sense of community.
There are plans afoot to open the cafe longer, for the community to purchase the pub (should the brewery begin to cooperate) and a myriad of other projects underway.
Please do not judge our wonderful community by one fleeting visit. You didn’t even scrape the surface!
Well said Newstead Resident. Not forgetting either the Community Centre also has a bar which opens on a Sunday. It is also home of Newstead Bowls, Newstead Brass & clubs like Wood Carvers, Tai chi, dance classes for all ages, work club, CAB office, Newstead Minors toddler group, fit club, and starting in December a lunch club. There is also an active Youth Club & WI.
Don’t also forget the support the community shows to fundraising events such as the Macmillan coffee morning & raffle raising thousands this year.
I lived there…. for seven long and miserable years. Surrounded by the Miner mentality of you’re not a local unless you sweat blood in the mines, the kids bought up with the same mentality with the added bonus of throwing bricks through my kitchen window and slashing the tyres on my car. I can only hope other parts of the village were marginally better but I’m not willing to go back and have a look… couldn’t get out fast enough.
What a real shame that that was your experience of the village freeatlast. We have had a great experience of living here for the past 6 years with our two children. There is an amazing community spirit, we have developed a huge friendship and support group within the village and love nothing more than spending afternoons at Orchard Parties or at the monthly community gig nights at the community centre. Our children attend the village school and the teaching is top notch. They love every second of being there. There are still a lot of ex mining families in the village, but we find that they think the ‘newcomers’ just as unapproachable. Once we begin to talk to each other we find a lot of common ground and good company.
I am 68 and was born in the village but left when I was 25. The mining village was on reflection a great place to live as it had plenty of sport activities and a first class football with cricket on Sundays. The Church and Chapels was full on Sundays and had a great youth clubs at the rectory with the vicars sister Florence Nightingale was great and in the summer helping to work in the garden. Walks to the Abbey and all the woodland to play and sledging in the winter when we had snow more than today’s fall’s of snow.
It was a great community no doors locked but who had anything to steel those days but slowly got better electrical appliances and cars came. The miners started to get paid what they was worth but as you know you never get enough as its a viscious circle as it is today with money
There are still people living there and getting old but must be respected as they have lived there all and most of their lives and must miss all their old friends and family so please all the new people please be kind to them and understanding and I am sure you will all get on on with them.
Just remember when friends and family die it takes years to adjust.
I would love to visit Newstead 1 day, my dad and grandad were both born there and worked down the pit.
They lived at 13 Newstead Colliery, but I assume these houses are not there anymore, cannot find on internet, 1 day ill get there